birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

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Hoping . . . what do I hope for? For a while I wrote a mystery series, short stories and three novels that never saw publication (because I never submitted them). In one of them, the sidekick character, who stands in for me, is asked, “What do you want?” by an obnoxious father of the bride with too much phlegm in his voice. The character replies, “I want a great many things. I want to meet Patti Lupone. I want a larger bathroom. Most of all, I want you to clear your goddam throat.”

What am I hoping for? I hope for a great many things, some secretly, some overtly. I could share the loftier goals, the more altruistic ones. The ones that make me look like a noble person. I’m still haunted by that photograph of the little Syrian boy covered in dust, sitting in the back of an ambulance; the photograph of the little boy’s dead body washed up on the beach. I confess I’m ignorant of the details of the wars that create these refugees and victims, but I hope they end with the “right” side winning.

But I’m lying if I say that is the hope that is uppermost in my mind. I want to be the kind of person who is more concerned with that that kind of thing than with selfish things, and there are days when I am that person.

But lately my hopes are one hundred percent selfish.

I used to write mysteries. I don’t anymore. I write more nonfiction these days, but I do still write fiction. But the last fiction I wrote is something I never thought I’d write: a middle grade novel. Last thing I ever thought I’d be interested in. I grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go. First draft, second draft, third, fourth fifth.
My friend/mentor (she may not know I’ve dubbed her that) professor has written published many books for young people. She suggested I join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. So I did. I also signed up for the spring conference, thinking the workshops would be helpful.

If I can muster the courage to talk to anyone, the networking may also prove helpful.

But what I’m hoping for, secretly, desperately hoping for, is that the one on one meeting with an agent, that I paid extra for, will ultimately lead to me being an actual, honest to god publish author. Not the “paid in contributor’s copies” author that I can now claim. But an “available at your local library” “assigned by elementary school teacher’s” published author. The kind who is invited to skype in to a sixth-grade class or to come talk to kids who want to be writers or ask, “where do you get your ideas?”

I feel stupid and conceited and pie in the sky even typing the above paragraph, but if I can buy a lottery ticket and dream of the house I’ll buy, I can hope for this pipe dream, too. I’m not hoping to be the next JK Rowling. But why can’t I be the next Beverly Cleary?

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The Sleeping Ocean