Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hen & ink Literary Retreat

One of the many pleasures I had this summer was the opportunity to travel to Montpelier, VT and meet some of the agency sisters at Hen & ink Literary as well as my AMAZING agent Erzsi Deàk. Erzsi held a two-day retreat in the quaint village of Montpelier to discuss our current works-in-progress and to get to know each other better and to write.

Mima Tipper, Rae Ann Parker, Kathryn Kramer, Claudia Classon, me, Hannah Goodman and  Erzsi Deak 

I arrived on a Sunday at the Burlington airport, rented a sporty red Ford Focus and drove the short 45-minutes through the green mountains to reach Montpelier. The village didn't disappoint with its grand courthouse with striking white pillars and the old-fashioned red, white and blue banners that draped store fronts and decorated main street. I passed cafes, restaurants, toy and book stores and a delightful candy shop called Delish!

After settling into my room at the Capitol Plaza, I joined Erzsi and several agency sisters at Positive Pie for wood fired pizza, salad and white wine. It was a fun night of laughter, good food and the best of company. One of the pizzas we ordered was called Carcass, a meat lovers delight, and the other, a vegetable extravaganza with goat cheese and artichokes. To die for! Mmmmm.

The two days flew by as we chatted and pitched our wip's and discussed favorite books and had one-on-one sessions with Erzsi. It was inspiring and motivating and surreal. I can't wait until we can do it again!

Author and MFA graduate Mima Tipper graciously gave me a tour of the Vermont College of Fine Arts after the retreat was over, and we tip-toed through lecture halls as summer residency was in session. I visited the book store and oooed and ahhhhed over the shelves of books, many from our Austin SCBWI community. I chose Alone With All That Could Happen: Rethinking Conventional Wisdom About the Craft of Fiction Writing by David Jauss and Uma  Krishnaswami's Remembering Grandpa, illustrated by Layne Johnson (Boyd Mills Press, 2007). Her book caught my eye as I'm also working on a picture book titled Grandpa's Girl about overcoming loss and celebrating love and how it continues on in the memories of the heart.

Thanks for the wonderful retreat, Erzsi!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Beaches and Butterflies and Beavers, Oh My!

It's good to be back home after visiting my mom's place in Canada but I do miss the beaches, butterflies and beavers that I saw while on our many adventures throughout my home province of Manitoba.

Beaver house on one of the slews near Russell, MB 

The kids and I often took the car to the beach loaded to the gills with beach toys, boogie board, towels and snacks in lieu of the short jaunty walk from Mom's -- for obvious reasons. You'd  think the three of us could handle the gear in tow, but Manitoba summers can be just as hot as Texas and if there isn't a stitch of wind to be had, you're melting in a puddle by the side of the road. Luckily for us, Mom's place had air conditioning and the wind off the water kept the bugs away until dusk that is.

Beach at the Village of Dunnottar

The kids enjoyed swimming lessons in the lake for the first time and what started off as protests quickly turned to joy as lessons take on a whole new dimension when there aren't any walls to contain you! My iphone however couldn't take any decent pictures as they were pretty far out with their instructors. You'll just have to imagine bobbing heads in the water and scrappy swimmers splashing about.

Many days, the kids and I ran or walked in the early mornings stopping on the piers to see calm waters on Lake Winnipeg (referred to as the Inland Ocean) or choppy seas depending on how hard the wind was blowing. There were butterflies everywhere and they flitted and flotted from grass to tree to knee. I caught this butterfly on a chair before he lifted off.

For the first time, my two youngest met some of the relatives in Russell, Manitoba at the Cusitar family reunion. I confess (hanging my head) that I haven't been back there since my grandmother passed away in 1987. I let far too much time slip away before returning. It was just as beautiful as I remember and even more so sharing laughter with aunts and uncles and cousins. Middle child loved learning how to knit from Aunt Marg and youngest one we call "Big" couldn't keep out of her lap. We were thrilled to spot the beaver houses in the many slews and marshes that surround the greater Russell area. Cattails and ducks and geese were plentiful. Skeeters, too!!

I'll try and post a few more pictures to document our grand time in Canada but first this gal has got to get herself to the salon and get her mop cut. Vacation left it in a tangled mess.

Happy writing everyone!