It has been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve been away at a writer’s retreat and have been far too busy to blog –in a good way.
First, some news – I want to announce I had a poem (one that I really think is a rhyming picture book) called The Monster Hairy Brown, chosen to be included in an anthology called Fifty Funny Poems for Children to be published in England next year. I guess that will make me an internationally published author!
Last week, I flew to New York and was picked up at the airport by a driver for Highlights Magazine, the wonderful Pam Box, and whisked away to Boyds Mills, Pennsylvania, to the original homestead of the founders of the magazine. This is a magical place. I have attended two workshops and two writer’s retreats there. You can read about one of the workshops by clicking here. I always make great progress in my writing and learn a great deal when there. This time I spent a week with six other writers and Carolyn Yoder, editor and teacher extraordinaire. Five of us were in a similar retreat last year and all intend to be in another such next summer. In fact, I think all are already signed up. I know I am.
Each of us had our own little cabin with good work space and lots of quiet time. The people from the Highlights Foundation treat us like royalty. They pick us up when we arrive from whatever airport we get to. If you come from the west coast as I do, they are happy to have you come in a day early and, if necessary, leave a day late. No extra charge. The meals are spectacular – always made with fresh, local ingredients and great imagination. When I say great food, I’m not foolin’. Even the oatmeal is the best I’ve ever had!
Each day we came together for meals and cocktails. We each had one-on-one time with Carolyn every day but one as well. No kidding! Every day. Everyone came with work in progress and many of us started new projects while we were there. It was such a collaborative effort. Supper every evening was followed by a critique session. When we read our latest version or chapter or story, we received lots of kudos and helpful suggestions. Everyone there was a published author – some more than others – trying to improve their craft.
I spent most of my time working on two projects – my middle-grade historical novel, The Incredible Journey of Freddy J. and an article for possible submission to Highlights called The Princess Who Wouldn’t Take “No”. I made a LOT of progress on my novel and…Tah Tah Ta Dah…Carolyn took my article to Highlights for submission. That means she liked it and I’m over a big hurdle with it. Fingers crossed!! She also mentioned to someone that I had sold my article on FDR to Highlights! She submitted that last year, then asked for a rewrite. I think there is still one more person who has to give it the thumbs up, but it is looking very good for both articles.
I also started a new picture book. It’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for awhile and have completed some research , but had kind of gotten stuck. Besides getting great help from Carolyn, one of the attendees was particularly helpful to me. Lois Huey, an archaeologist and writer with lots of notches on her writing belt and who was at the retreat last year, was someone willing to share her knowledge and expertise and even write to experts she knew to help me with that project. She is still sending me info by email (as well as a great cookie recipe!). She also took extra time to proof some work for me and offered great suggestions. And my picture book is coming along, largely thanks to her and Carolyn.
One of the other attendees, Nicole Groeneweg, also an accomplished and many-times published writer working on an amazing book about Eisenhower, was so generous with her time helping me prepare for some submissions – proofing and offering excellent suggestions. When I didn’t have a return envelope with me (What was I thinking?), she interrupted her writing to take me to town and buy what I needed. Wow. And you heard me right. Submissions – plural. That poem the Brits are publishing next year, that I always thought of as a rhyming picture book, The Monster Hairy Brown, has now been submitted to Boyds Mills Press as a picture book with Carolyn’s approval, which, I am sure, carries some serious weight. I know that it will at least get a close reading, and I can’t ask for more than that.
I’d like to give a shout out to the other attendees – Selene Castrovilla, Tracy Helixon, Norma Lewis, and Lisa Idzikowski. All were generous with their time and ideas. In addition to learning more about my own writing, I learned a lot about the Revolutionary War thanks to Selene (Check out her many books – great stuff!), Air Force One and the Kennedy assassination thanks to Tracy, life in 19th century Alaska from Norma, and sooooo much about Thomas Jefferson from Lisa.
We had visits from editors from the press and from the magazines, as well as the much-published author Kate Messner who brought each of us three of her books and graciously signed them for us. Watch for reviews of those books here in the coming weeks.
Yes, it was another magical week at Boyds Mills. Unfortunately, my trip home wasn’t quite so magical. My left knee dislocated during my charge through Kennedy Airport, and I am still nursing that. The pain is unbelievable, especially after physical therapy or my exercises. Ice is my new best friend. But this too shall pass and I will be left with the memories of my magical time at the retreat and my much bolstered writing career!
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