The Long Version:

I live in Southern Vermont with my husband, our two kiddos, and two quickly growing rescue kitties that destroy every bread product we accidentally leave out. They’re named Boomer and Justice. Boomer is, of course, the shy one whose guilty expressions always give them away. 

I used to teach middle school social studies, but when my kids were born I was able to be a stay-at-home mom. That’s when I started writing seriously (usually at 5am, but occasionally from 2am until 4am – do you know how quiet it is at 2am??). I also had the chance to run with ideas in a way that hadn’t been possible when I was teaching full-time (teachers work HARD). Like when my daughter was born, I discovered my hidden talent of baby-and-stuffed-animal-arranging. Because, who knew?

I also ended up starting an organization called GunSenseVT, focused on championing the common ground within the polarizing issue of guns. I didn’t set out to create a whole organization, but I started an online petition and soon agreed to organize a press conference (I had never been to a press conference, much less organized one), and one thing lead to another. It’s amazing what can happen when you say YES to things. Also, when bullies showed up to try to get me to stop talking (and when I realized if they succeeded, they’d try to do the same to the next person speaking her mind), I found out that I wasn’t necessarily the shy, sensitive person that I thought I was.* Instead, it turns out I was pretty stubborn, and way more fearless then I could ever have imagined. Sometimes the most unlikely people can help you figure out who you really are.

Most recently I helped create the Local Love Brigade, which sends love postcards to people who are facing hate. We started it where I live in Vermont, but soon awesome people created chapters (with a Facebook group for each!) in lots of other places, too, including Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. The world needs us to fill it with love, and it turns out it’s a pretty darn satisfying way to spend time. And even though most of the time you can’t see the impact you’re having, sometimes you do.

If this sounds great to you but there isn’t a Love Brigade in your state yet, it’s super easy to start your own. Big, bold change starts with one small step, and the instructions are right here. You (yes, YOU!) should totally do it.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, there’s one more thing you need to know: I’m not someone who has been dreaming about being an author since I was little. The reason is that I always thought creative writing was something I was horrible at! I had written one decent (though very short) story in 4th grade called The Case of the Double Daring Dragon about a character named Emphysema Dandruff, but I wrote that in a single school day after being stuck on a different (very boring) story for weeks. That, I had decided, was a fluke. I’ve never been the person who writes pages upon pages in a journal. In fact, when I’ve been forced to keep a journal in the past, I’ve written them in bullets. Extra words made me itch.

But seven years ago, I was nursing my newborn son (for hours on end) and reading Louise Erdich’s Bluejay Dance. I had just read the section about her juggling having a newborn with writing (in her beautiful Louise Erdich way), and I put the book down.

My first thought was: “How amazing would it be to be a writer?”

My second thought was: “But creative writing is one of the things I KNOW I can’t do.”

My third thought was: “But if I could, what would I write?”

 

And that was the beginning. The years that followed were filled with crazy long hours of work, determination in the face of rejection (and more rejection and even more rejection), and so much learning. But the deep thinking that’s required with writing grounded me, and the characters that emerged were people whose stories needed to be told.

So, if you are ever longing to do something but you KNOW it’s something that’s impossible for you, just ask yourself “What if?”

Because if you’re willing to put in the work, it’s amazing what you can create.

*The thing is…when I was 12, I was shy and too sensitive. At least I thought I was. (I mean, check out my 7th grade yearbook picture.) I knew that under the surface I had all sorts of creativity and a strong sense of justice, but that was buried under layers and layers of wondering about fitting in and listening to peers talk so much more confidently than I felt. Clearing the way so we can hear those voices inside us is serious work. I’m pretty sure that’s why I write what I write.


Further Reading:

“Local Love Brigade Aims to Console Victims of Hate”

“Long Shot: A Mother of Two Keeps the Gun Debate Alive”

The Short Version:

Ann Braden writes books about kids struggling to find their voice amidst the realities of life. She founded GunSenseVT, a grassroots group focused on championing the common ground on the issue of guns in Vermont. She also helped found the Local Love Brigade, which now has chapters all over the country sending love postcards to those who are facing hate. Ann’s debut novel ZOEY AND THE SCREAMING MONKEYS, pitched as Jason Reynold’s GHOST from the perspective of a white girl living in a trailer park, comes out in Fall 2018 from Sky Pony Press.