All the words that fit

WP 15 table 2

The two women on the left thought a small retreat for writers of Kid Lit would be a good idea. Laurie Smith Murphy in the foreground, and just behind her, Linda Crotta Brennan. We owe them BIG TIME for their genius.

You see those people talking?  The woman laughing?  The lamp-lit snow in the window behind her?  Dim light and intimacy in a rustic setting; words shared in the middle of nowhere.  This was opening night at the SCBWI Whispering Pines Writer’s Retreat last weekend, and I was there.

I have been lucky enough to have attended this event for thirteen years, the last four of which I had a hand in running with the amazing Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  Five years ago I wrote here about the anticipation I felt beforehand. This year was even more special.  It was both the 20th Anniversary of the retreat, and my last as acting Co-Director. There were more attendees than ever before, more mentors (three editors: Sylvie Frank, Kendra Levin, and Mallory Kass; three agents: John Cusick, Erin Murphy, Ammi-Joan Paquette), more words.  More fun.

I wish though, I would have taken more photos.  Talked to more people than I did.  I wish it would not have gone by in such a blur — good things always happen that way. And, yet, when words abound and fill the space you occupy, when ideas flit like birds, some will linger long enough to feel true.

These were some of the words that spoke the loudest truth for me:

  • I will wear a vest (more likely a sweater) of invisibility when I leave my room momentarily so that my husband knows not to talk to me.  I’m not actually in the kitchen pouring tea or water in my cup, I’m still at my desk. I’m still writing.  He will know that my head is filled with all the words that fit.  It cannot handle more at that time.
  • I will call my inner critic Velveeta.  Because how can you listen to, or believe in a critic with a cheesy name like that?
  • Without motivation, there is no story.
  • Writing is good for the soul.

To that last I would add that writing retreats in general are also good for the soul. It takes me days to process what I learned, which in turn improves my writing.  And it gladdens my heart to think of the kind and lovely people I have newly met and added to the list of names that I call friend.

It’s such a corny thing to say (Oh, shut up Velveeta I’m going to say it anyway), but I have drunk from the well of inspiration, and it was good.

It will sustain me for a while.

WP 15 Table 2

At this table more smiles and conversation. In the center, directly in front of the window, is my partner-in-crime, Lynda. She is the Energizer Bunny of organizing magic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Shiny Things

Glass sea creatures by Leopold & Rudolph Blaschka.

Glass sea creatures by Leopold & Rudolph Blaschka.

Birthdays, for me, are notable for nothing so much as a reminder of how quickly time passes.  And when I start thinking about that, I start thinking the Why are we hereWhat’s the meaning of life? kind of questions that have no definitive answers, and then my head starts to hurt.  I’ve felt this way since I was a kid.  At least there were gifts, then, and a cake to distract me.

I’m not that crazy about cake anymore, and there is nothing I really need, so on my birthday in those first few moments of waking, I generally feel a pang, a longing for something I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps if I had not been born in the dead of winter?  Maybe the longing is simply for sun.

Sunday, the 25th, was my birthday.  This year there happened to be sun.  As well as son of the other kind, and a plan.

And there were Facebook friends to keep me buoyed.

The first Happy Birthday popped up the evening before.  I was surprised. When I checked, it was a Facebook friend from Athens, Greece.  It made me smile and think about this woman who lived so far away, and where, for her, it was officially my birthday.  A few more birthday greetings followed shortly after that.  One was from a woman I adore, who is usually up rather late at night, and who was glad not to miss leaving her good wishes.  I went to bed thinking about that woman — a dear friend of my husband’s late grandmother (another woman I adored).  She’s also known me since I was a little girl.  She gets special props for that.

In the morning over coffee, I checked Facebook again.  There were more birthday wishes. More of me thinking fondly on each person who posted. More smiling going on, inside and out.

The plan for the day was a trip to Boston.  Drive up, pick up the Boy, and drive to the Museum of Science to spend the afternoon.  On the way, I kept checking to see how many more people had wished me a happy birthday.  The number kept growing.  I kept announcing the number to my husband as he drove.

We whiled away a lovely afternoon at the museum.  Later in the day, as I stood scanning the central room in search of Husband and Boy, I thought about all the people there — young and old, grandparents, parents, children, all of them exploring, touching, laughing.  So alive.  As opposed to the army of scientists and mathematicians whose ideas informed the basics of so many of the exhibits.

There is nothing like wandering around a museum to bring home the point of time passing by.

Still, throughout the day–a peek here, a glance there–at the increasing number of people who took a second to say Hey you, Happy Birthday kept me from wading too deeply into the murky musings of mortality.  People were waving and smiling at me from all over the world.

What a strange and wondrous world we live in.

There’s a lot to be said about the pros and cons of social media.  It’s the scourge of our society, a time suck, a spy.  It’s blessing, it’s a curse.

What I will say is this.  I read every single birthday greeting I received.  Time (the greedy bugger) did not allow for me to reply to every one, or even very many, but I liked each one which, for me, at least, serves the purpose of acknowledgment.

I can tell you that with every smile and wave you sent, I pictured each and every one of you.  How I know you, or how long.  Some of you I grew up with, went to school with, worked with, acted with, wrote with, played games with.  Some of you I’ve never met face-to-face. All of you have made me laugh.

I thought about where you are, or what you like, what music you listen to, or what you like to eat.  The words you hate, the games you enjoy.  Some little shiny thing about you that I can hold to the light, that makes you, you, makes you memorable to me so that when you wish me well, I know exactly who to picture.

I know exactly who to thank.