Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Monday, April 28, 2008

SCBWI Road Trip

Saturday, one of my writer buddies and fellow member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) took a road trip to Richmond to attend a program sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI. The program was part meet-and-greet and part presentation by an editor and a couple of authors.

Amy and I left my house about 7:30 a.m. and fully intended to evaluate a stack of entries in the Lake Writers Student Fiction contest before we arrived in Richmond—and we did read a few. Well, Amy read them aloud while I drove. But then we got to talking about all sorts of writing stuff: Hollins (where she’s a student), writing contests, places to submit, what we want to do with our writing, etc., and we stopped evaluating. Sometimes something along the road would catch our attention and we’d remark, “There’s a story in that.” In no time, we were in Richmond.

Before the meeting, I wanted to stop at the Apple Store in the Short Pump mall to look at the new iMacs. (I’m thinking about getting one.) However, we (OK, I) missed the turn that would take us directly to Short Pump and had to reroute. But the good thing was we turned around beside a gas station that had the best prices we saw in Richmond (where most of the prices were in the $3.55 to $3.65 range for regular) Then we missed another turn, but got it right the third time. While this turned out to be an easy way to get to Short Pump, we noticed a couple of strange things: on the on-ramp sat an empty wicker basket. Why would a basket be there? Especially a basket in pretty good shape? What story was in that?

Shortly after we passed the basket, we saw some good-sized roadkill ahead. We wondered what it could be. In a few seconds, we saw it was a dead Canada goose. The corpse was in pretty good shape—not squashed or bloody or anything? Why was it in the road? What story was in that?

Anyhow, we made it to the mall, where we passed Darth Vader and some superhero on our way in (some major kids’ event was going on!), found the restrooms, the food court, and the Apple Store. I saw the iMac, played with it a bit (the new keyboard is weird, but I liked it!), and talked to one of the guys who answer questions. My questions: How much does it weigh and could a cat knock it off a desk? How do you clean cat hair out of the keyboard? His answers: Nineteen pounds, it’s unlikely, and with the dusting attachment of a vacuum cleaner.

Then we went down Broad Street and eventually over to Monument Avenue (where, at the Confederate monument, we saw a bird sitting on Jefferson Davis’s head) to Franklin Street to the Richmond Library where the SCBWI meeting was.

It was nice to reconnect with some folks I’d met at other conferences and to meet some new people. Right after Amy and I had taken our seats, I heard someone behind me mention something about a horse. I turned around and asked, “Are you a horse person?” She was. She’d come with her critique group from Charlottesville. After Amy and I talked to them about how their critique group worked, we decided that we’d like to organize one, too. We’ll work out some details when Amy’s classes are over.

The guest speaker was Kate Fletcher, an editor at Candlewick Press. We each received the Candlewick catalogue and a complimentary ARC. Kate told us about the press itself, about its history, about some of the books and the awards they’ve won, and about what she does in a typical day. Many of us in the audience knew that submitting to Candlewick was well-nigh impossible because the prestigious Candlewick doesn’t take unsolicited/unagented manuscripts. Then Kate made us the offer that not many of us will refuse: attendees at the meeting may submit manuscripts to her within the next three months!

Another part of the program was a staged reading of two of Candlewick’s books: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village and A Visitor for Bear. The three high school students who did the reading were excellent.

The final part of the program was a conversation between two Candlewick authors, Gigi Amateau and Meg Medina, and the editor Kate. The two authors asked Kate some really good questions, and again we learned a lot. Especially interesting was how Gigi’s book, Claiming Georgia Tate, happened to be published. She’d written it over a decade ago, it had sat in a drawer, a friend read it and liked it, showed it to a guy in Florida with some literary connections and he liked it, he sent it to Judy Bloom, who liked it and wanted to show it to her editor, who liked it, and —well, you can figure out what happened.

Gigi’s next book—a horse story!—will be out in July. I liked her first book, so I can’t wait to read Chancey of the Maury River. There’s also a possibility that Gigi might make it to this end of the state to do some appearances to promote Chancey.

On the way home, we passed some streets with funny names (Miss Sallie’s Alley, Be-bop Road) and figured there was a story in those. Partway home, Amy got a call. Her sister was in labor. Later her husband called to see how the weather was—they’d gotten a gully-washer in Boones Mill. Luckily, we hadn’t hit any rain at all, but we could see clouds looming in the west.

The rest of the way home, we watched the clouds but only encountered an occasional sprinkle. Around 7:30 p.m., we rolled into my driveway. Then the sky opened up, rain poured, and lightning flashed.

In case you’re wondering why I didn’t blog Saturday night or yesterday about this wonderful literary road trip, I was busy revising Ferradiddledumday (again) and writing a cover letter.

I took the manuscript to the post office this afternoon. Kate Fletcher should get it in a few days.

Y’all keep your fingers crossed for me, OK?


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Blogger CountryDew said...

Good luck! Fingers crossed. Admire your spunk.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Amy Tate said...

I've crossed all my fingers and if I lean just a little to the left, I can cross most of my toes too.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Amy Hanek said...

I love road trips. They really force anyone out of their element and into a new world of creativity and learning. Sounds like a productive and fun day. Wish baseball hadn't interfered - I would have tried to join you both.

I will cross all of my fingers for you. You deserve it!

1:12 PM  

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