Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Craft 101

This morning I drove in to town before the sun was up to put my mother on the plane home to northern Florida.  She had made the trip, despite age and vision problems, to attend the BPL's Writer-in-Residence reception last Wednesday. The evening reception honored the wonderfully talented outgoing Writer-in-Residence, Sarah Winifred Searle, for her work on the graphic novel, Under The Apple Tree, a mystery set in small town Maine during World War II.  Sarah talked about her writing process, showed slides of her amazing artwork, and discussed her beloved Kenebunk and the local history which inspired her story. Sarah described her time as WIR as, "pretty much the best year of her life," and it was clear from her work that not a moment of time was wasted as she labored on her story and artwork. Sarah also held workshops at various branch libraries, which were a thrill for both teacher and students, and provided the WIR office with some pretty terrific artwork to boot!  To see some of Sarah's work, and find out what she is up to now, visit her website at .

The reception was also a lovely welcome for me, and chance to read a bit from the work in progress, Saved, surrounded by the grand murals of the Abbey Room and my family and friends (old and new). I was able to thank the Associates not only for the gifts they've given me, of time (every writer's dream), of space (my beautiful office beyond the swinging doors and this amazing building full of treasures), and of support (financial and spiritual). But also for the message the program sends to the wider world about the importance of children's literature and the work we do as writer's for children.

In true Oscar Night fashion, I had a few other thank you's as well.  Especially for my mentors, the wonderful writers, Liza Ketchum, and our dear, dear Ellen Levine, friend and advocate extraordinare, whom we just lost this past spring. The gifts they've given are too many to count.

 And there was one other to thank...

My first stories were from my mother.  She was a nursery school and kindegarted teacher for many years, first in her own school, in the the little town of Bridport, Vermont (where my first novel, The Curve of The World, is set), and then at the Brook School, in Concord, Mass, where I grew up. She made books come alive for all of us, but my favorite stories were those she created herself; "The Holly Stories," about a very tiny, elf-like girl, who is found in the woods and adopted by a large, noisy family not unlike our own.  Of course she gets into all kinds of trouble, falling into the cake batter and dodging cats, that sort of thing. But she has her own dollhouse to live in. And she saves herself and the day more than once. I was entranced by that Holly; the brave one who has many adventures and overcomes many obstacles, despite her poor impulse control and very diminutive size.

From that Holly, and the woman who created her, I learned that good stories (like life) are about overcoming obstacles, or at least coming face to face with them.

For that, my first craft lesson, I thank you, Mom.  

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