Thursday, June 30, 2011

Meeting Educators & Kids

Rich and I had the chance to speak with educators at the Barnes & Noble in Manchester, New Hampshire and we really enjoyed meeting local high school and elementary school librarians and teachers. We had tea and cakes and talked about our novels, then chatted to some of the attendees after.

What was really special though, was heading to the Barnes and Noble in Nashua right after and signing books there. The events co-ordinator timed our visit perfectly. Students from a nearby Catholic school were just finishing their poetry readings (lots of great odes to their teachers!)so we had a captive audience.

We sold out of our books and got to chat with little Jack (pictured below with Rich),

and lots of other kids who were looking for summer reads.

The store was really busy and though it's quite huge, still has the feel of a local bookstore, with helpful and enthusiastic staff who know about books.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Writing From The Heart

It's been awhile since I posted and I miss it, so I hope to get back to my regular weekly blogging. This past weekend I joined workshop leader Lori Ries to help lead Writing From the Heart, a week-long writers retreat at the Highlights Foundation site in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. It's where Rich teaches a few times a year and close to where we used to live, so I always enjoy going back.

I really didn't know what to expect other than I would be critiquing novels and working one-on-one with the participants. I first did this at Chautauqua several years ago and really loved it.There's a tremendous amount of joy in connecting with other authors and helping them see their vision more clearly and watching break-throughs happen. It seems to elevate my work, too. Having support while you write, getting feedback and specific tools to strengthen and deepen your work is so crucial, and I'm lucky to get this from my husband, Rich, who thinks like an editor as well as an author. But I'd been working pretty intensely on revisions for my own YA novel and needed a break from it.

It turns out this week was more inspirational for me than I could have imagined. Lori filled our mornings with hour-long sessions about writing, along with valuable exercises. Her Aggie & Ben books for new readers are such fun and Lori's pure spirit shines through in all she does. Joelle, senior editor for Highlights for Children magazine, also made an appearance and was so popular with the group, she'll be helping out at the retreat next year. She's in between Lori and myself in the photo.
The afternoons were left for the group to write--a precious commodity for the participants, all having hectic lives that leave little room for quality writing time. The second day of the retreat I began meeting with each member of our group individually, critiquing their work and helping them shape their visions more concisely. The range of story-lines was vast and the voices were distinct. They definitely became even stronger by the end of the week. Here's a picture of our group, all passionate about their stories, from historical fiction, Appalachian tales, to Russian-inspired picture books.

I hope my daily meetings and feedback helped in some way to sharpen their writing and I'm excited to keep track of their progress. But what surprised me most was how lively my own imagination became. I thought it would take a week off and I'd focus solely on the participants and their work, but as I watched the fireflies at night outside my cabin, thoughts for new stories swirled around in my head so quickly I had to get a flashlight and write them all down. Picture books ideas and chapter book ideas kept bubbling up and I saw characters for the first time that I can't wait to get to know.

And since the week was also filled with evening supper guests to go along with our luscious meals, our group had the added bonus of meeting up with editors from Boyds Mills Press like Liz Van Doren, as well as author Susan Campbell Bartoletti.(I highly recommend Susan's Newbery-honor book, Hitler Youth for any library.)
Listening to Susan read her upcoming picture book,Naamah And the Arc At Night was magical, and the passion and enthusiasm, not to mention the work ethic she brings to her craft, makes we yearn to work even harder at what I do.

So while I gave as much as I could helping the talented writers in our group shape their stories, I feel I learned even more. I can't wait to be a part of this retreat next year and to keep writing!