Figuring out how to do it all…

Hello friends and fellow bloggers, especially those from the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by Thank you to all who made such kind and encouraging comments on last week’s blog, “Goodnight Stress.” I am happy to report that this week has been much better, but it has been busy. Busy, busy, busy. That’s why I thought this week I would use the short story “Upstairs and Downstairs” from Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel. I think the introductory passage of the story best sums up what I would like to talk about today:

“Owl’s house had an upstairs and a downstairs. There were twenty steps on the stairway. Some of the time Owl was upstairs in his bedroom. At other times Owl was downstairs in his living room. When Owl was downstairs, he said, ‘I wonder how my upstairs is?’ When Owl was upstairs, he said, ‘I wonder how my downstairs is getting along? I am always missing one place or the other. There must be a way,’ said Owl, ‘to be upstairs and to be downstairs at the same time.’ ‘Perhaps if I run very, very fast, I can be in both places at once.’”

From there, the story gets more hilarious as Owl attempts to race faster and faster up and down the stairs in his attempt to be in both places. He eventually exhausts himself and ends up sitting on the middle step in the stairs because “it was a place right in the middle.”


Reflections: In this story, Arnold Lobel beautifully captures the childlike desire of wanting everything at once. Of course, young children are usually caught between positives: “I want to do this and this!” Or as Owl put it, “I am always missing one place or the other.”

As adults, I think we tend to feel caught between negatives, “I have to clean the house, I have to meet a client, I have to write a brief…how am I going to get it all done!?” Or, a little more positively, we feel caught between a negative and a positive: “I really should be preparing for my hearing this afternoon, but it’s so much more fun to write my blog….” 

If you have not figured it out yet from my talk of clients and briefs, in addition to launching my writing career this past summer, I decided to start my own law practice. In many ways, this career move has been fun and exciting. I get to make my own schedule, I don’t have a boss, I have time to take my dog on long hikes and write, and I get to choose what area of law I work in. There are of course risks as well; first and foremost is I need to make enough money to pay off my student loans.

Like Owl, I’ve had moments recently when I feel like I’m running at high speeds between obligations but never quite achieving success in any of them. I realize now that when I decided to open up my own practice, I also decided to become a secretary and an accountant (both of which are much harder than being a lawyer). Likewise, I now know that when I decided to write a book, I also decided to become a blogger, a tweeter, a marketer, an editor, and a researcher.

I have not figured out the secret to successfully balancing my many obligations, but I do know I need to remember that, like Owl, I am caught between two positives: I love writing, and I love being a lawyer. I don’t particularly like figuring out all my billing or trying to make sense of the children’s book market. But, I think the key to my middle-step solution is realizing that big, happy things often have little, negative things that come along with them. As long as I learn to avoid Owl’s mistake of needlessly running around like crazy, I should be fine.

That’s all for this week. I leave you with a bit of advice that I’m going to follow as soon as I post this because I really do need to prepare for that hearing: take a deeeeeeeep breath everyone and use the big, happy things to motivate you to take care of those nagging, little things. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog today. Feel free to share some of your Owl-like tendencies: what are the things in your life that make you wish you could be in ten places at once? 

I am a Writer-Bear! Thank you, Paddington.

Hello friends and fellow bloggers, especially those from the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by This week’s children’s book passage comes from a childhood favorite, Paddington:

“Now,” said Mrs. Brown, “you must tell us all about yourself. I’m sure you must have had lots of adventures.”

“I have,” said Paddington earnestly. “Things are always happening to me. I’m that sort of a bear.”


Reflections: I read the above passage on Friday and immediately wrote it in my “ideas for blog” notebook. I didn’t know what I was going to write about, but I knew “I’m that sort of a bear” had to be shared- if for no other reason that when I read it, I thought, “Am I that sort of a bear?” It took two days before I was able to answer that question.

On Saturday, I drove to Milwaukee to spend time with my niece and nephew and to volunteer at a book festival for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators ( Even if you’re just thinking that maybe someday you might write a children’s book, you should join SCBWI. The Wisconsin chapter has been extremely helpful ( Writing a book can be an emotional battle. It is fun but challenging, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the industry. From talking with my fellow writers at WI-SCBWI, I know I have a lot to learn but knowing I have a group of kind, talented writers and illustrators to help me along the way makes all the difference.

I left the book festival on Sunday feeling energized. I discovered many books by fellow Wisconsin authors and illustrators ( . They are all great, but I’d like to recommend three in particular: Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zeitlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf is on my way to my niece as I type. Janet Halfmann’s story and Betsy Thompson’s illustrations in Eggs 1 ,2, 3: Who Will the Babies Be? are so sweet and soothing, you will wonder why you don’t read a picture book every day. Finally, Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier and illustrated by Suzy Lee should be bought by anyone who loves to watch a child learn to love reading. In addition to the inspirational books, I felt more ready to face industry challenges after speaking with Sandy Brehl (author, blogger at, and extremely helpful publicity coordinator at WI-SCBWI).

While making the three hour drive home after the book festival, I was thinking about Paddington and came to a conclusion: I am a Writer-Bear. And just like Paddington, I don’t want to be just any Writer-Bear; I want to be the sort of Writer-Bear who has lots of adventures. This is what I have come up with thus far to ensure a writing life full of adventure:

  • I want to write, write, write.  I am a Writer-Bear who has lots of ideas and lots of books in me, and I want to enjoy writing them throughout my life.
  • I will be a happy Writer-Bear. I will not get caught up in the often long and frustrating road toward getting published and instead focus on my love of writing. Ultimately, the goal is for people to experience the joy of reading our books, of course, but there’s a whole lot of joy that comes before that stage that I don’t want to overlook.
  • I will be a productive Writer-Bear. I will edit like crazy. The goal is to edit four chapters a week. Sarah will help with this, which is reason #1,201,789 why it’s great to write a book with someone. I will also keep adding to my “ideas book” for future books.
  • I will be a social Writer-Bear. I am not naturally social. In fact, I think it is hard work. Over the next year, I intend to somehow feel at home in the worlds of Facebook, blogging, and Twitter (see our links at left). I look forward to connecting with you, learning from you, and sharing my enthusiasm for kids lit and writing in as many media as I can wrap my mind around.

I also realized that I have other Bears in me that I’d like to foster. My Daughter-Bear wants to think of a truly spectacular way to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary next summer. The Aunt-Bear wants to see my niece and nephew every couple of months, since I finally live close enough to do this. Plus, my imagination pales in comparison to theirs, so they are my most fun source of inspiration. I’m also excited to welcome my new niece to the world in December. The Girlfriend-Bear wants to find ways to make Matt happy that he won’t expect (I will make him like birthdays!) and help him start a new business.

I have other important Bears in my life, but those are a good start. What kind of Bear are you? Are you the sort of Bear who has adventures? If so, please comment below. As I learned from joining SCBWI, sharing your ideas and goals with others can be the spark that motivates you to be an adventurous bear like Paddington.


The Jane Martyn Writing-Bear process. Step 1:  We have an idea! Step 2: It’s great! Let’s figure out how it will work. Step 3: This is so hard. It doesn’t work! Step 4: Wait a minute, it works- we can do this!