Sunday, October 26, 2008

As Promised --

Wouldn't you guess this was a GIANT? Like, some really TALL person? Well, it's not, it's ME! Last weekend I was at Writers' Retreat, and the weather was very nice on Saturday, and I found a time in between events to go out (as had been suggested) and look at Lake Michigan. Owing to the time of day, the sun was behind o' me, and I saw this and thought "PHOTO OP!" (When you're 4'11" something like this can have a dramatic effect.) Yes, I see that it makes me look like a pinhead. No comment.

I was not led astray; the lake was beautiful. The waves were crashing on the shore......well, not exactly *crashing*, but making that wonderful wavy sound. The site is a convent, and seems now to be a comfortable home for many Dominican sisters, whose apartments are separate from the retreat facility, although its dining room is across from that provided for our use.

I couldn't say if there's a common kitchen, but I found the food to be delicious. There were comments - "bring something good for the snack table, the meals are plain"...that kind of thing. Maybe I have simple tastes (well, ok, I DO) but I enjoyed every meal.

I had also read that there was a Labyrinth on the grounds, and I had made up my mind to investigate it. I've always wanted to walk one - not the corn maze type, an actual labyrinth. There was, in fact, overlooking the lake. I put my stuff over by a bench, went to the start, and walked it. I have to admit, the first time around, in spite of trying to have peaceful or prayerful or meditative thoughts, I kept thinking things like "Gee, you could just step right over and walk right out" and "I wonder if this really works, didn't I come this way going the same direction just then?" and "how on earth would you know how to mow this thing?"

Not appropriate thoughts. I can imagine what I'd think if I got to see the Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral. Well, I'd like to think that I could get all the foolishness out of the way first ("WOW THIS IS OLD!" "How'd they get it so round in those days?" Look at that CEILING!") But some day, I'd love the chance. The whole concept of a labyrinth appeals to me on several levels.

I'm glad to say that the second time I walked it, my thoughts were as they should have been, and I was a little surprised to find myself expressing gratitude, rather than asking for anything. It was that kind of a day, that kind of an event.

Because it was in a convent, the accommodations were what, in the Middle Ages, were referred to as "cells". The convents and monasteries were none of them trying for AAA Five-Star designations, and the residents were content (or supposed to be) with a tiny room containing only a pallet or bed and perhaps a rustic table with a candle on it. I found my "cell" to be absolutely sufficient, entirely comfortable, and esides that it was only two doors down from the biffy.

Now, I must admit, I had rather more posh accommodations than (as I understand it) ANYone else! If you click on this and biggify it you will notice two accoutrements which did not appear in any of the other cells: notice, on the top shelf of the bookcase a small television set! I did turn it on, and it did work. (I then turned it OFF because that was not what I meant to do with any of my time there......but STILL!!) You will also notice, on my plain-but-functional desk, FLOWERS. It was a lovely autumnal arrangement in a quaint little basket, which delighted me. I believe I've mentioned before, when I go anywhere without Mr Dearling, he often sends me flowers with a little note saying something like "Remember me". SILLY SILLY MAN! {ahem} Excuse me.....suffice it to say, even if there were no flowers, I think I'm safe in saying that I'm not likely to forget him any time soon. Still - I love that, it's very romantical.

However, the purpose of the whole thing was this Retreat, see, for members of the SCBWI, and I went feeling like Someone Who Kinda Writes Children's Stories...and came back, honestly, feeling like a Children's Writer! Hard to explain, except that I learned terminology, techniques, and ideas, and got a bunch of thoughts and observations, all of which gave me an earnest confidence. Now, of course, comes the putting it to use.

As I said before, I was tickled to find myself among really-o truly-o CELEBRITIES, even though I didn't know it at the time, and my favorites, especially upon retrospection, were:

Holly Black, author of "The Spiderwick Chronicles"

among other things, who was absolutely fascinating, very funny, and who provided some truly solid information about the technique and process of writing about fantastical worlds peopled by folks some people don't believe in (yeah, I KNOW! Hard to believe!) which I found to be of particular interest; and

Linda Sue Park

who has written quite a number of books, including "A Single Shard", which I haven't read but am about to (as well as a couple other of her books that sound intriguing). Might I add - "A Single Shard" won her a NEWBURY! That's (for those who may not know) just about the equivalent of the Nobel prize, for children's literature.

I guess I didn't really feel bad that I didn't recognize these girls' faces, because a glance at the back of a book jacket doesn't tend to stick in my mind....but when I knew who they were and listened to them, I allowed myself to enjoy feeling all star-struck and stalk-y and goofy. I think I managed to speak like an intelligent person in any conversations I had with either of them - or anyone else. I hope.

They had one little discussion that illustrated to me the circles in which I was moving: they were discussing the finer points of some writerly business, and both referred to ideas they'd shared with "Philip". Someone with as much awe as I but who maintained the ability to speak squeaked "PULLMAN?? PHILIP PULLMAN ??" and the response was in the affirmative. (!)

So now there remains one last element: I need to try putting what I learned to good use, and whether or not I actually achieve my resolution to be published in this, my 65th year, I can certainly say that I'm now headed in the right direction and wandering mindlessly through the wilderness.


kmkat said...

But, but, but... D-H, you ARE a giant! A giant among knitbloggers and knitblog commenters, but a giant nevertheless.

MollyBeees said...

I am so proud of you I could squeak! I'm glad the retreat was all you hoped for (and more it sounds like). Now go, send those stories to the publishers. There is no way, once they get a load of them that you'll miss your year end deadline! I SO believe in you!

Alwen said...

Holly Black?

My son just brought home a "Beyond Spiderwick" book. Wait till I tell him I sort-of know someone who met Holly Black! squeee!

CTJne said...

Sounds positively lovely and inspirational! I hope it proves fruitful. :-)

Randi said...

Re labyrinths: There's one in the town where I work. I've walked it a few times. And the name of the town? Pullman! How's that for connections to you and this blog entry of yours?? Best of luck in your publishing pursuits.

Marjorie said...

Hey-- need an update. Or an E. Or sumpin... yer ET (heading north for 2 days due to a DIL family service Friday) C U Sat Pm?