As if a few days in New York wasn't enough, I had to top off my trip with the Kindling Words Retreat in Vermont!
Five people loaded into Katie Davis' big car for the ride up: Me, Katie, and Hope Anita Smith (2009 Coretta Scott King Honor Award Winner!), then we stopped and picked up Ellen Wittlinger and Jane Yolen!
What do you get when you load a bunch of unbelievably talented story-weavers in one car for a five-hour drive? A rockin' good time, that's what! We stopped at a fabulous bakery in Brattleboro, VT for lunch - Annie's? And talked and talked all the way. What a great beginning!
Arriving at the Inn at Essex (which doubles as a Culinary School) was like coming home.
We walked in to register and were immediately surrounded by friends and hugs. We'd all missed each other over the year!
Once again, I roomed with author/illustrator Sarah Dillard (check out her new book, Perfectly Arugula!) - we make good roomies. :)
But a few people were new, and there were 17 editors there this year (!), so the organizers (big THANK YOU to y'all!), Marnie Brooks, Tanya Lee Stone, J. Alison James, and Janie Bynum put together a fabulous loosen up activity. We painted, wrote a group poem, and best of all - we drummed. Beautiful, African, beating drums!!
OMG did we all fall in love with those drums!! Before you knew it, we were laughing and completely relaxed - what a kick off!
Day 1 we opened with the writer's thread and guest speaker Nancy Werlin. Needless to say, she was great. Have you read her latest book, Impossible? I loved it!!
Nancy was followed by the illustrator thread with speaker/RISD teacher Mary Jane Begin. I was hoping to find inspiration to move me to a new level with my art and Mary Jane really came through. She shared art history, style, caricaturization, and graphic novels. All highly informative, and FUN!
The nice thing about KW is that it really is a retreat. After lunch is free space. People can form spontaneous groups to talk about specific topics they're interested in . . . or not. Some people wrote, some went snow-shoeing, I organized a group to talk about School Visits, traditional and virtual. I had a lot of questions myself, and a lot of people had been asking me questions concerning my article about my first Virtual School Visit, so it ended up being a pretty big group. I learned so much and was so appreciative of all the info everybody shared!
That night we were treated to poetry performed by Ashley Bryan. What a master. You can't listen to him and not fall in love with poetry. Go see a sneak peek of his performance at the 2007 National Book Festival. I drew a picture of him while he spoke and he signed it for me. (I did this when I heard National Treasure Ray Hicks way back when.) I now have a new treasure to frame for my office and I'll think of him and that wonderful evening every time I look at it.
Afterwards we all fell into a spontaneous drum circle - pouring our hearts and souls into the beats - it was absolutely AMAZING!!
The next day we again enjoyed talks by Nancy and Mary Jane, then again had free space.
This time I attended a great group about book store visits led by my doppelganger, Elizabeth Bluemle, author and owner of the Flying Pig Bookstore. I say doppelganger because for some reason whenever we are on the same message board together (and now in the same place) people mix up our names. I guess Dulemba and Bleumle are somewhat similar. And sure enough, it happened here as my speaking information was slipped into her name tag. We've been emailing and laughing about the phenomenon for years, so I was thrilled to finally meet Elizabeth in person. Here we are showing off our name tags.
That evening was the cherished tradition of KW - the candlelight readings. We had a bigger crowd this year so broke into two groups (editors were divided to keep it fair), but everybody who wanted to read was able to. I read the opening to "A Bird on Water Street" (currently being shopped by my agent) and was thrilled by the kind comments I got afterwards - including by some of the editors! It's a joyous time to hear the works in progress from such talented people. Even better when you see them come to life, like Janni Lee Simner's Bones of Faerie which she read an excerpt from last year and is now out. (I read an ARC and you need to read it - it's great!) Jane Yolen read more of her absolutely charming poetry - there's a reason she is so famous! And Laurie Halse Anderson read the finalized chapter from Wintergirls which she spoke to us about when she ran the writing thread last year. There were plenty others that were absolutely wonderful - I'm rooting for those works too!
Afterwards, we all layered up like Eskimos and headed out to the bonfire in -1° weather - no lie! We sang, roasted marshmallows, and basically huddled together for warmth. Oh, and I had to do my now annual snow angel - can't do those in Georgia! Gads what an evening.
The next morning at breakfast, I realized I hadn't taken a single darned picture the entire time, so ran around trying to catch glimpses with all my amazing friends. I don't know if the formatting will hold, but here I am with:
Christine Taylor-Butler, author of the article I illustrated for Scholastic called "Sobremesa" and scads of other books (how cool to meet her in person)!
Cool lady, Dian Curtis Regan and me.
Ellen Wittlinger and Laurie Halse Anderson.
Amazing voice and Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner (did I mention that yet?) Hope Anita Smith.
Sterling Publishing sister (she got the recent catalog cover!) Janie Bynum.
My awesome hostess, Katie Davis, Elizabeth Bluemle and me:
Katie again with me and Janni Lee Simner:
Leda Schubert who gave me one of the best compliments on my writing ever after last year's candlelight reading:
and finally, me and Kate Messner who's career is taking off like a big 'ole star:
And gosh, there were so many more wonderful people who I wasn't able to get a picture with. I guess I'll have to wait until next year. I sure hope to go back. KW is one of the most invigorating, inspiring, and warm fuzzy things I do all year!