Sunday, April 27, 2008

All Things Can Tempt Me

All things can tempt me from this craft of verse:
One time it was a woman's face, or worse--
The seeming needs of my fool-driven land;
Now nothing but comes readier to the hand
Than this accustomed toil. When I was young,
I had not given a penny for a song
Did not the poet sing it with such airs
That one believed he had a sword upstairs;
Yet would be now, could I but have my wish,
Colder and dumber and deafer than a fish.

William Butler Yeats, 1910

With all the discussion of procrastination, I just couldn't resist posting a piece from my favorite poet. Though Yeats never had to contend with the allure of the internet or television, nonetheless, he, like most of us, struggled with a host of daily distractions that begged and beckoned, drawing him away from his creative purpose. And don't we just ache for those feeble sirens to call us away when our task is already frustrated? Blogland, chatrooms, email--it's all just a more concrete manifestation of Yeats' desperate breaks with inspiration.

But I have to say that somewhere within that bog of distraction lies the seed of inspiration. Sometimes I just need that kick start, that little phrase innocently uttered online to spark an idea that grows into a paragraph and then a chapter and then the book. No matter how disconnected that idea may seem, the whole sense of connection that I get from my little distractions actually feeds my writing...somehow. Diversion does that crazy dance that misdirects our brain long enough for it to find the answer (or inspiration) in our subconscious. Oh, jeez! Yeats would be proud of me now!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Two for the Road

After some questionable accommodations and service at our fabulous retreat, the time has come to consider other options for next year's venue. I've been busy hunting down potential spots, trying to keep things in the Poconos and keep them intimate and inspiring, and I lit on 2 specific possibilities. What's that you say? Come on up and check it out? You'll hook me up with a room for the night and a tour? Great! cohort has a big commitment this weekend and can't go with me, and we can't find babysitting so DH and I can go together. I guess I'm on my own. Ah but wait! The film maker. What about him?

Yes, my little Spielberg accompanied me up into the Poconos for a look around, and what a blast! I love having that quiet time with my son, especially when it involves an adventure. Our last big adventure took us to New York City to the movie set of Spiderman 3, where my little guy was an extra in the film. This time we were sampling menus, hiking into the woods, evaluating the size and spring of the beds (always fun with a 10-year-old), and taking in the "sense" of the place, which is absolutely key to the success of this journey.

We found a fabulous place just 20 minutes or so from our former location, and it has everything--facilities, atmosphere, service, good food, free-roaming deer and even a few bears! It may have been more fun having my son there than DH (shhhh!) because he really wanted to see everything and try out all the amenities. Looking and seeing was not sufficient for him. He's all about the whole experience. That something unmatchable about our little jaunts, and Connor said, "Mama, can we do this every year? I mean just have a weekend together, just you and me?"

Yes, my insides rolled up into a big mushy knot and my eyes welled up. Absolutely! Daddy can have Boy Scout Camp and all that, but these little journeys will be for me and my boy. What a tremendous gift this weekend offered. Beautiful weather, a successful search, and priceless mama/son time that still pulls my lips up into a grin every time I think about it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A BIONICLE STORY -- the Blogspot Premiere

Coming to you from the clickety-clackety streets of Amish Country....The directorial debut of C.M. Scott (aka Manshark) and his film A BIONICLE STORY.

C.M. wrote, directed, starred, photographed, orchestrated,...made this movie almost exclusively by himself. Just a little voice-over help from Daddy, and a few handy-cam scenes that he couldn't film himself (because he had to be the star!). There are over 600 still photos in this 90 seconds of action, each requiring a steady hand and a mountain of patience to manipulate the figures with microscopic precision. He even story-boarded the project before he began filming. All this, just about a month before he turned 10. (You can't tell I'm proud, can you?)

Now at work on his second feature (again, a month before his birthday--11), he hopes to finish this one in time for the school talent show again. He had such a response last year--kids asking for his autograph, a troupe of 6th-grade groupies following him all over the playground (not bad for a 4th-grader!).

Speilberg, Scorcese...look out!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


The scent of pine trees and lake water. The ticka,ticka, ticka of ladybugs scurrying in and out of every room. The hum of passionate writers and illustrators comparing rejection letters, success stories, and manuscripts. The roar of semi-trucks racing up the road outside my window at 3:00am. Ah, the retreat weekend had finally arrived. Unfortunately so had a completely new staff at our favorite Inn, which meant some rough spots in our idyllic jaunt into the mountains. Let's just say, McDonald's could have provided more consistent food and service. (Ouch...I know that's harsh!)

But the faculty was one of the best ever. Our speakers were impeccable, truly inspiring, and the editors were straight-forward and tons of fun. I feel truly blessed to have connected with T.A. Barron who shared such a love for storytelling and for the earth. Beautiful is the only word I can think of to describe this man. He is so at peace with who he is and so passionate about writing. We swapped stories and he shared the brand new cover of his latest book--Wow! I found a real kindred spirit in Mr. Barron, as well as what I hope will be a common editor!

I can't say enough about Jordan Sonnenblick. We had so much fun--although I'm sure he thinks he has a couple of stalkers, between me and Laurie! His story of how he wrote his first book, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, was awe-inspiring. It will melt your heart...and make you want to thump the man! That's one writer's journey I would like to have. Jordan has the keenest sense of humor. We shared some war stories from the teaching trenches, although now he has quit his teaching job to write full time. I'm sure he is sorely missed. He's my kind of teacher--and writer!

Gene Barretta shared his journey as well, and oh how cool! Be sure to look for the author's photo on the jacketflap of each of his books--you'll be able to watch a little sprout grow...

The editors all had interesting points of view, and many of the workshops were more hands-on this year. Patrick Collins, the art director from Henry Holt gave the most helpful PB dummy construction workshop. Such a talented, unassuming man. Genuinely interested in seeing what other writers and illustrators were doing. the real work begins--planning for next year. Yep, that's right, folks. I'm in charge of the next retreat, and already I have a handful of possible sites. Sadly, the location where we have rested for the last 16 years just isn't going to cut it. So, I will be building this one from scratch. But I'm excited and I think I'm up to the task.

Hope to have more news, soon. Publishing news that is.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Time to Retreat...

It's that time of year--the Poconos Retreat. Time to breathe in some creative air and soak up some inspiration from my writing pals as we pig out on gourmet food and get back on track with some dead-on editorial guidance. Now that I've been at this for a few years--7 actually--conferences have taken on a very different feel to them. I used to be jumping with nerves and self-doubt, but eagerly devouring every morsel of critical advice and writerly inspiration I could scrape up. I don't know if you would call me a war horse yet, but I feel that I've ridden these trails hard and heavy and at least 100 times by now. Okay, maybe not 100. But in some ways I have arrived as a writer. There is still plenty of new stuff to hear, lots of mistakes to correct, oodles of connections to make, but I think the most satisfying part of this weekend is the camaraderie. That sense that we've all stretched ourselves until we are paper-thin, fought for our babies--our literary progeny--until we can't bear to look at those tatty manuscripts any longer. Of course we know that after a few months in a dark drawer, those pesky little pups will whine until they get our attention again.

But a weekend of editorial panels, workshops, and writers sharing their million war stories on the road to publication somehow revives me. There is a strange affirmation to having your first page shredded by 5 or 6 editors in front of 100 other people, all bleeding from their own wounds. Some on life support. But it reminds me that yes, I am a writer. And yes, I do love it.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Somebody Please Help...

This gorgeous piano needs a home. We may or may not be moving, but we have no space for the stunning piece of history. And we can't afford to store it. The kind people who have been looking after her now need their space back for renovation. I hate to give up this gem, but if anyone out there knows someone who is looking for an antique in exquisite condition, send them my way.

Sad...very sad.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

15 Years and Counting--Quite Happily!

Yes, indeed. My man and I have been married 15 years today. It's amazing how fast the years have flown by. They haven't all been full of bliss, but they have been exactly what they should be. We've seen the tough years and the joyful, some met more handily than others, but always with love and respect. I gave my beloved a book of letters, My Dearest Friend, the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams. Amazing--a country struggling to be born, a sometimes crass and arrogant man laboring to bring about the revolution, and a woman of infinite strength holding her man together from afar. Yes, Abigail really was the foothold, here. The first letter in the book is absolutely lovely:
October 4th. 1762

Miss Adorable

By the same Token that the Bearer hereof satt up with you last night I hereby order you to give him, as many Kisses, and as many Hours of your Company after 9 OClock as he shall please to Demand and charge them to my Account: This Order, or Requisition call it which you will is in Consideration of a silimar order Upon Aurelia for the Like Favour, and I presume I have good Right to draw upon you for the Kisses as I have given two or three Millions at least, when one has been recd, and of Consequence the Account between us is immensely in favour of yours.

John Adams

My man gave me exactly what I wanted--tulips. They are my favorite and were our wedding flowers all those years ago. So no matter how frustrated we are feeling about the job situation or waiting and waiting for word on my 2 manuscripts, we know that the foundation of this life is real and solid. And all I can say is, never settle. The right one is so worth the wait.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Girl Scout Promise

This weekend, my daughter and I embarked on her very first camp-out adventure with her Brownie troop (all 7-year-olds). Don't get me wrong, I love camping, but with my RA, I wasn't sure I would make it through a cold weekend in the woods. Fortunately we had 2 sunny days in the 40's, brooking 50, so it wasn't too bad. And we had a lovely, recently refurbished, heated cabin. Luxury! I was proud of my girl, working hard to help out with the chores and keep up on the hike. She couldn't wait to record some of the sights in her "journal". She drew the tree, the spider, the bear track (more likely a raccoon). It was precious. Of course she was the last one to bed that night. And then the adventure really began...

All the girls are asleep, except Maisie of course, and the troop leader and one of the moms are sitting out on the porch. Suddenly the mom comes in and whispers that she saw a man standing by the latrine (11:00 at night). The GS hosts are called. They call the police. After about an hour of scouring the woods and talking to the witness, the police suggest that we move the girls down to the Host house, which is closer to the road and 3 stories high. Then they utter those words that first struck terror in my guts--"We don't want another Amish School shooting situation..." What?!!!!! Holy crazy cow! One strange guy in the woods I can handle. Creepy, but I can handle it. But dredging up the Nickelmines tragedy--that's too much. That was only 8 miles from my house. And you never truly know fear until you have children.

So, we tell the girls that the heat broke. Of course it made no sense when they found themselves in a musty, freezing alternative a few minutes later! But we got through the night, me with maybe one hour of sleep, Maisie with 4 or 5, and in the morning we dragged ourselves back up to our cabin and through the next day and had a fabulous breakfast and lunch, learned how to make firestarters and tie knots and how to build a fabulous campfire.

So there is the adventure the Brownies never knew they had...and they won't know until they are much older!