Habitual Thinking, Wholeness, Challenges, and Feral Cat Balls

I like creative titles but I probably should have just called this: I went to Children’s Book World tonight for an author panel/signing.

First, I’ve been to CBW in Haverford twice but the last time was years ago, for a signing with Laurie Halse Anderson and David Levithan. I don’t actually remember being inside for any part of that. It was a nice day and must have been in late November or early December because I went with my then-to-be-roommate. I forgot there’s no actual SEATING there. I planned on getting there early (I have a lateness phobia) and just popping a squat and reading. It was significantly more awkward when I was the only one there, sitting on the steps of the little stage reading, and listening to the authors in the ittybitty hallway behind me. I did not anticipate how awkward I would feel.

Once I got over that, everything went much smoother. The authors in attendance were (and I’m doing them from left to right in the photo below) April Linder (author of Jane and Catherine), Tiffany Schmidt (author of Send Me a Sign), Victoria Schwab (author of The Near Witch, The Archived, and the forthcoming adult novel Viscious), KM Walton (author of Cracked and Empty) and Jonathan Maberry (who has written too many books for me to list here but he’s won the Bram Stoker award a couple of times, writes for Marvel, and has the YA zombie post apocalyptic worlds that start with Rot and Ruin)

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The Q&A opened up by the authors all asking each other questions out of a fish bowl. Sounded like they picked the questions earlier, questions they’d like to ask fellow authors. So questions like “Why do you write?” and “Do you have any strange writing habits?” and “Do you listen to music while you write?”

I loved these questions. First, because I felt less strange (playlists? Per character? Yes please!). And because Victoria gave a brilliant answer for “Why do you write?”. She said, and I’m probably paraphrasing a TAD because I didn’t record this, “Because it’s what I do even when I do other things. I was always scribbling in the margins of my notebooks in school. I made up stories in my head and I lived there because it was better than my real world. I write because it makes me feel whole. It’s when I’m my happiest.”

Yes. That. Talking about books, reading books, and writing books makes me feel most whole. There’s a void in me that I tried to starve away, and I tried to fill, and I tried to destroy, and it remains, unless I am talking about books/writing books/thinking about books. I walk into libraries and bookstores and take a deep breath, because it feels like coming home.

I asked a question about carrying heavy characters (not ONE of these authors wrote a fluffy book. They basically hit you over the feels, and I’ve only read one and a quarter of their books (I read Empty by KM Walton and am 1/4 of my way through The Archived)). Jonathan talked about how writing for him was cathartic because he got to look at different view points.

And then he said my favorite line for the evening, just a nose ahead of Victoria’s “Writing makes me feel whole”. “Habitual thinking is the enemy of the creative mind.”

THIS! Can I flail on the internet? Is that allowed? I AM FLAILING. That struck such a chord with me because I think habitual thinking is probably my greatest personal thought. Part of it is pathological but I think I can lean on that as a crutch sometimes. And it probably DOES stifle my writing. And probably the rest of my life.

I want to get this taped to the top of my laptop. I want this tattoed on the inside of my left arm. I am writing this on my mirror, the only mirror I allow myself every day, and I am probably going to start chanting it as a mantra to myself (can a mantra about habitual thinking because habitual? What then?).

So I’m challenging myself to think from my “villians'” standpoints this week while I’m writing. I’m challenging myself to see all of the ways they became this way. And I’m challenging myself to not tell myself “no” or “bad” when it comes to my creative work. Just one week. Monday through Friday. Just to see what happens, what changes, if anything feels different.

Overall, everyone was really kind. Victoria’s particularly funny and charismatic and warms up the whole room (and a Neil Gaiman fan so obviously she has to be okay). Jonathan is wise, and smart, and kind (and he met Ray Bradbury! I wanted to talk to him about Something Wicked This Way Comes but resisted). Tiffany’s book sounds way up my alley but I might need to hold off until I am less sad overall. I’ve LIVED April’s Jane’s job, so I definitely need to pick that up. And I already knew KM’s books (and love them and rec them).

I had to book it out of the signing to go to the Philly shelter and pick up a feral cat who was neutered so I could return him to his colony (his name is Lionel and he is very happy to be back outside away from us irritating humans who stole his balls). I wish I could have hung out afterwards but you know. Duty called. Feral cats need to go back outside and I like to do it at night where people don’t scream at me from windows and call the cops on me (this happened).

To leave off this entry, please admire the beauty of tight, powerful dialogue with NO MARKERS. *flails again*

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from THE ARCHIVED, by Victoria Schwab

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