More Momentum (And What to Do When You Crash Into a Wall…)

So here's the thing about picking a word and setting an intention for the year: As soon as you do, the universe usually finds a way to test it! For me, that test came within mere hours of posting last week's blog post on MOMENTUM—and I've been dealing with the fallout all week. Last Friday, while making lunch at home, I did something dumb: I managed to cut myself while attempting to take the pit out of an avocado. (Usually my husband's job—and probably now his job for the foreseeable future!) The cut wasn't huge, and I was able to avoid going to the ER and getting stitches. Nonetheless, it was in an inconvenient spot on my palm for doing just about anything. And, well, it hurt like the dickens. Here's what I looked like last Friday night:

bandaged handWhat does this have to do with testing my resolve to maintain my momentum? Let's just say that it took a few days for me to be able to type even close to my normal speed. I had to literally slow down my workflow. In addition to that, I had to bail on yoga this week, as well as on dance classes that tend to include floorwork with weight on the hands. Not quite what I had in mind after my lofty post a week ago!

But I'm healing. Every day my hand hurts a little less, and I have a little more mobility in it. Looking on the bright side, skipping dance/yoga gave me more time for my writing; I'm on a roll with this first draft of my new book, even typing a little slowly. And who knows—maybe I needed this slightly less fast-paced week, especially given the snow and sub-freezing temperatures. Maybe I'll take the bit of frustration I've felt at hurting myself and not being able to do things and put it into forward momentum next week, or the week after that. Maybe, in short, momentum doesn't have to be all go, go, go. Maybe I can use this lull to my advantage.

So here's to being forced to take a step back and slow down. Here's to being able to laugh at myself and my bandaged claw-hand this week. And here's to taking revenge on the inanimate objects that attack us—I was able to eat most of that avocado, and it was good.

I hope those of you in the path of the bitterly cold weather (Polar Vortex 2: Electric Boogaloo!) are staying warm and dry! Until next time...



My Word for 2014 Is...

I really enjoyed having a word to represent my goals for 2013 (PATIENCE). Unlike a resolution, it wasn't stressful—something I had to check off the to-do list. Instead, thinking about being patient in all of the various facets of my life—fiction writing, work writing, dance, yoga, personal life, and on and on—really set a tone for the year. Am I now a more patient person than I was a year ago? I think I might be, but if you want an honest answer, you'd probably have to ask my husband. :D Regardless, the idea of having a word for the year meant enough to me that I want to do it again in 2014. I've been thinking a lot this week about what I want that word to be, and I keep coming back to the same one:

momentumWhy this word, when I just spent a year trying to sit back and be patient? A lot of amazing things happened in my life in 2013. In particular, I achieved a dream I've had for a long time: getting a book deal. But one of the biggest things I've realized over the last few months is that the work is just beginning. I sold one book; I'd like to sell more. I want writing fiction to eventually be my full-time job. And those things aren't a given. I can't sit around and wait for what's next to land in my lap. As much as I'm enjoying everything that's going on with the book I sold, I need to ride the momentum of 2013 into a year that (hopefully) holds just as much promise.

I've started working again on the first draft of the book I hope to sell next. I want to take the momentum of finishing revisions on THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND—the high I felt when I was making the final few edits in December and reading over everything and being so proud of it—and put it into this new book. I want to use the momentum of my excitement and anticipation as I start doing all of the author-y things I need to do: making an author page on Facebook, networking with people who might be interested in learning more about my book, etc. But the momentum of 2013 isn't just about writing. I had a great dance year last year, and I want to keep that momentum going by going to class even when it's cold outside and I don't necessarily feel like it. I accomplished some yoga goals last year, and I want to keep up the momentum by continuing to push toward the next goals (side crow, perhaps?).

I want to do all of this while, of course, being patient with myself. Trusting my process and trying to avoid comparing myself with other people who might seem to be making progress faster. Knowing that I'm working hard and doing my best.

Easier said than done? Maybe. But that's why I'm giving myself a whole year to get there.

Did you choose a word to represent your goals in 2014? Share it in the comments!


Looking Back at 2013...

As you're reading this (if all goes well with the scheduled autoposting on Wordpress…), my husband and I are touring around Israel! This amazing trip, which I'm sure you'll hear all about on the blog in a few weeks, was my parents' wedding gift to us, and we're finally able to go (we just had our two-year anniversary in November). An adventure like this feels like a fitting way to end what turned out to be a pretty great year! 2013 had its ups and downs, for sure, but the ups were, well, very up. :)

  • I started this blog! I'd been wanting to blog for years, and hadn't gotten around to it. Now, with almost a full year of blogging under my belt, I'm so glad I took the plunge.
  • My newest nephew was born! He's almost a year old now, and he is a delight. You can see some pictures of him HERE and HERE.
  • I signed with a fabulous literary agent! This was the culmination of several years of blood, sweat, and tears, and when it finally happened, I was over the moon. Of course, that was only the first step along a journey that included...
  • Selling my debut novel to HarperCollins! And I thought signing with an agent felt good. 2015, when my book is slated to be released, can't get here soon enough.
  • I attended my first writer's conference, SCBWI LA! It was fabulous to meet more kidlit writers, as well as to hear some true legends in our field speak. Also, my husband and I took a fun vacation in California when the conference was done.
  • I revised my book. And revised it. And revised it again. That might sound frustrating, and at times it was! But my editor pushed me to make the book the best it can be, and it has become something I'm so proud to send out into the world.
  • I had a dance performance that was fun and challenging and really well received by our audience—all you can ask for, really!
  • I joined the Fearless Fifteeners and the YA Buccaneers!

My word for 2013 was PATIENCE, and I couldn't have chosen a better one—because even as I'm working to be more patient with myself, I've seen my patience pay off in some big ways. And I'm not just talking about the book deal, though that's the obvious one. I've also, in the past few weeks, finally hit some of those yoga milestones I've been chasing. Remember when I posted about trying to be patient as I worked toward arm balances? I now have Crow Pose and Headstand in my bag of tricks! Am I perfectly stable in those poses every single time I attempt them? No. But after spending a year building toward being able to do them consistently, I know that with patience, I'll get there. Oh, and here's the photo evidence of a year's work:

I have titled this photo: "Headstand in the Hallway." :)

A few other random blog-related stats from 2013:

  • My most popular post ever is, to the surprise of probably no one, the post in which I announced my book deal (see link above)!
  • My second most popular post, to my great surprise, is… *drumroll* THIS ONE: my thoughts on Lauren Oliver's Delirium series. This is the Energizer Bunny of blog posts! Just in the past week, it surpassed my agent announcement post, my "About Me" page, and a few other key pages in number of views. So, Lauren Oliver fans who keep finding their way to me: Welcome! Look around. Stay awhile.
  • I reviewed about 50 books on the blog this year, and you can scroll through those posts using the Friday Reads tag. You can see my top 10 out of all of the books I read this year HERE. I'm going to continue reviewing books on the blog in 2014, though I probably won't be as formal with my Friday Reads posts… so keep an eye out!
  • I have 83 blog followers—not too shabby for my first year! I'm happy so many of you are interested in what I have to say.

So I guess all that's left to say is, thanks for a great 2013, and here's hoping that 2014 brings even more good times and good news! Happy New Year, everyone!!


Dancing Onward and Upward

I spent the past five months or so rehearsing for a set of dance performances that happened this past weekend, so this week I'm dealing with a vague sense of post-performance letdown. Don't get me wrong: the shows were GREAT. I had a blast dancing with this cast, and we rocked out onstage. The audience loved it. I couldn't have asked for things to go better. But still, it's hard to transition from rehearsing several times a week, every week, to...not. Me in Becky Radway's #64 — photo by Jon Radway

It's one of the hazards of dancing project by project, rather than working full-time with a specific company: you often finish a show with no idea when your next performance will happen. Or even if there will be a next performance. My friend and choreographer Becky Radway (learn more about her work HERE!) has applied to be part of a dance festival in summer 2014, but we won't know for a few months whether she got in. We'll probably also have a one-night-only short performance in April. But until then, it's back to class.

And that's where the other bit of dance-related upheaval that happened in October comes in: Dance New Amsterdam, which was my dance home in NYC for the past eight or so years, had to close its doors for good on October 13. It was the end of a long, drawn-out battle with the landlord over back rent and other issues, and frankly, it was probably time to let go and move on. But most of the final classes—and many of the celebrations honoring DNA and its teachers—happened when I wasn't able to be there (due to rehearsals for this past weekend's show, as well as being out of town and otherwise unavailable) and so I didn't get to say the goodbye I would've wanted.

Diane at DNA

Luckily, my teachers have transitioned pretty seamlessly into teaching at other NYC studios, and so their classes live on. Now that I'm done rehearsing and my schedule has opened back up, I'll be able to figure out how to shape each week around my favorite dance classes in their new homes at their new times, just like I used to shape my week around the classes I took regularly at DNA. I've already started going to one class in its new location—Laurie De Vito at Mark Morris Dance Center—and it's been fun to see the mix of longtime attendees and new faces, and to feel the energy that comes from being in a different space.

2013 has been full of changes, not the least of which being my book deal and the beginning of what I hope will be a career as an author. I've been busier than ever juggling freelance work, book revisions, dance classes and rehearsals, and other commitments. But one thing won't ever change: I always want those dance classes (and rehearsals!) to be there. Dance isn't just the activity that gives me a break from sitting in front of my computer all day. It's not just about exercise. It's also the other way I express myself, aside from words. It's emotional release. It's an intellectual challenge as well as a physical challenge. It's been a part of my life since I was three, and I want it to continue to be a part of my life as long as possible. So whether that's onstage or not, at the studio I loved and am still sad to have lost or somewhere new and exciting and fresh, I'll be there.

And now... I'm off to dance class!


It's Time to Dance!

Yesterday, I went to my first rehearsal for a new dance project! My super-talented friend Becky Radway is putting on a show in October, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. I went to college with Becky, and have performed with her in NYC several times. For every show, she creates work that is new and different from her previous pieces, without losing sight of her signature movement style. I really enjoy working with her and am really excited to see what this show will become. More updates as we get further into the rehearsal process! Regardless of whose choreography I'm dancing, I love being in rehearsal. Even though I work hard in class to improve my technique and expand my artistry, it's the rehearsal setting (and then, later, performance) where all of that gets put into practice. A lot of the choreographers I work with—Becky included—get input and inspiration from their dancers. Yesterday, Becky gave us a series of prompts and asked us to come up with a movement phrase that traveled across the floor, based on whatever those prompts brought up in our minds and bodies. As we go on to refine those movement phrases—and believe me, like any first draft, the phrase I made yesterday needs refinement!—Becky will shape what each of us created into a cohesive part of the overall piece.

I love working like this, being given an idea or a challenge and coming up with movement that meets the criteria while showing my voice and my style. It appeals to my writer/problem-solving side. It reminds me of doing writing prompts as a way to jump-start a fiction-writing session. Sometimes you come up with something truly fabulous on the first try. Those are the best days. But other times, all you can glean from the whole mess you made up are a few small, choice movements (or sentences, as the case may be). As I write this post, I'm still going over the movement phrase I made up, thinking about what moments I like and want to keep and what probably needs to be discarded. I can't wait to get back in the studio and make it even better.

In other dance news, my summer favorite So You Think You Can Dance starts tonight! I unabashedly love this show. Plus, I've been lucky enough to interview and write about the winners of the past two seasons for Dance Spirit magazine. (Read about Season 8 winner Melanie Moore HERE and Season 9 winners Eliana Girard and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp HERE and HERE!) I can't wait to see what this season brings, and what future dance stars we'll meet for the first time.

I'll end this dance-centric post with a video from another awesome dance show, Bunheads. Per the title of this post: It's Time to Dance!


~Kathryn :)

Dance Break!

So, a few weeks into this blog, it's definitely time to talk about what I do with my days besides sit at my computer and write. Here's a hint: Photo by Julie Lemberger

I've been a dancer since I was three. I put it that way (rather than just saying "I started dancing at three") because I knew almost immediately that dance was going to be a big part of my life. I was hooked pretty much from the first lace-up of tap shoes, the first sequin-covered tutu, the first squint out into a full house through stage lights. I studied it all growing up: ballet, tap, jazz, and modern. (Okay, not quite "it all." No hip hop or ballroom. Only so many hours in a busy kid's week.) I was in a regional ballet company in high school. In college, I shifted my focus to modern/contemporary dance, and I haven't looked back since.

When I first moved to New York, grown-up rent-paying desk job acquired, I thought dance would probably be downgraded to a hobby. I wouldn't give up taking classes, but I wasn't going to make a career out of it either. What I didn't realize is that in NYC, there are SO MANY opportunities to perform, if you're willing to look for them and put in some time networking. I've been lucky to perform with friends from college who now choreograph, with teachers whose dance classes I take on a weekly basis, and with dancers I've met through various shows. It's all on a pickup, project-by-project basis—I don't dance full time with one company or choreographer—but that's actually how I like it. It gives me stretches of time where I'm rehearsing and really focused on dance, and then stretches of time where I can focus on writing.

Photo by Diane Tomasi

Of course, I don't just jump onstage after not dancing for months. I take three or four dance classes a week, as well as a yoga class or two. I have teachers whose classes I love because they're so comfortable they're like home, and teachers whose classes I enjoy because the movement style challenges me to get outside of that comfort zone. I tend to dance in the afternoons, and it's become the perfect way for me to break up all the sitting and writing. I'm able to find new energy while also giving my writing brain a break. There are never enough hours in the week to dance as much as I'd like to, write as much as I want to, earn money, and spend time with the people I want to spend time with, but I do my best.

Here's one more photo, from a performance I did this past October. The piece was choreographed by my friend Stéphanie Landouer, and it was lovely to dance—and the opportunity came along exactly when I needed my stage fix, after a few months off.

Photo by Susan Quinn

I don't have any shows slated for 2013 yet...but as with everything else this year, my plan is to work hard, be patient, and see what opportunities arise! (Sound familiar?) In the meantime, I'll still be dancing.