Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chautauqua - the people

At Chautauqua, the disparity between "them" and "us" was negligible. The faculty and invited authors were approachable and they weren't there to further their own agendas. At meals, they spread out among the conferees. During one dinner, I was happily sandwiched between Sivu from South Africa and Jerry Spinelli. At another dinner, I sat next to Kathi Appelt. On different days, I had breakfast with Chris French Cully, Carolyn Yoder, and Andy Boyles. At a barbeque I sat next to Julie Ham, an editor at Charlesbridge. It was not so much what will happen from this workshop, but creating the possibility that it can happen by making connections. My roommate, Janet Lloyd Weber, and I were amazed at how gracious Kent Brown's family was to open their homes to us for barbeques on two separate evenings.

The bottom photograph was taken at my dinner table one evening. The middle shot is my totebag from the conference signed by faculty and authors. I had my mentor, Andy Boyles, sign front and center. In the upper left hand corner you'll find the cryptic signature of Tommy James (and the Shondells). The top photograph is of the last morning where I laughed throughout breakfast. So many happy memories of Chautauqua......

Friday, July 29, 2011

Chautauqua - the program

The program at the writer's workshop at Chautauqua was more intense than I expected. I was quite busy the whole week and that left little time to participate in the scheduled Chautauqua Institution lectures and programs. There were inspirational keynote speeches in the morning and in the evening. In the afternoon, I scurried from one pre-selected workshop to another. During lunch, there were optional Lunch and Learn sessions where I ate and listened to a speaker. I participated in two of these. One was a session on how teachers select nonfiction books and the other was about school visits. At times I found it difficult to focus because of the heat and because I didn't sleep well while I was at Chautauqua. It seemed many people were not sleeping well. We were all caught up in the excitement.

Prior to arriving at Chautauqua, I submitted a manuscript for critique. Critiques were either Mon and Wed or Tue and Thurs. I was real happy with my first critique despite having a critique group that I consider to be quite thorough, I received some great suggestions. The second critique meeting either involved new material or revisions to the submitted material. In order to get those revisions done participants stayed up till the wee hours of the morning or they cut workshops and keynote speeches (that would be me).

There was a lot of stuff crammed into one week. I signed up for an early morning nature walk that I really enjoyed. We found a dead bat (I wish I used the macro setting of the camera!) . One day we went to Roger Tory Peterson Institute and got a tour of the archives and their Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Other conferees participated in a history field trip. Sharon Creech was one of the keynote speakers. The top photograph summarizes the keynoters words of wisdom. What a great conference!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chautauqua - the place

Chautauqua Institution is unique. I know of no other place like it. It's not really a town, but more like a gated village devoted to the arts. It straddles Chautauqua Lake. At the front gate, there's a schedule of all the events that happen during the week. Lectures, concerts, animal shows.....all occur in open air buildings. The houses have small yards overflowing with flowers. Jerry Spinelli told me he and his wife bought a house in Chautauqua because they loved it so much. My first impression was that it was quaint.

The bottom photograph is the amphitheater where we saw Tommy James and the Shondells. The middle photograph is the lecture hall where I sat during lunch and also met my mentor, Andy Boyles. Many times during the week I'd walk past the lecture hall and hear someone speaking. The top photograph is the view from the front porch of the Athenaeum where I stayed. It's a magnificent historic hotel that has had many famous guests.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chautauqua - First Day

To get into the Chautauqua Institution you have to go through one of the gates. You'd think the President was coming with all the security they have there. Every trip in and every trip out requires a scan of a ticket.

That first day I wandered the grounds walking all four of the streets that ran parallel to the lake. When I found the bell tower, why of course I wanted to climb to the top, but that was no-no. Carolyn Benton, the chimemaster who wanted this job since she was five, asked me what hymn or fun song I wanted to hear from her lists. Since I was there for a writing conference, I selected "I Could Write a Book." Since I was not familiar with what I was requesting, she could have played any old thing and I never would have caught on.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Last night I returned from Chautauqua. I had a fabulous time. One of the questions I had before I left was what is it about this conference that makes writers love it? I now know the answer to that. I hope to explain that in a series of blog posts about place, program and people and include key photographs. For now, I'm digging out and working on edits to an article.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Asiatic lily and coreopsis

I've adjusted to the new reality by looking at things differently. Instead of standing in the street and gazing at the top of a skyscraper and thinking what a devastating fall, I stand in the street gazing at the first floor thinking you can do it. You can get there. One step at a time. It's the same with writing. When you look at the mountain top and see the happy faces they seem so unreachable, but taking one careful step at a time you will move toward that peak and enjoy the journey more. Hopefully, after a week at Chautauqua there will be noticeable improvements all around. I am SO looking forward to getting away, attending lectures, meeting new people, enjoying the arts, listening to feedback and most of all immersing myself in the writing world. I have much to discuss with a mentor.

The top photograph is an Asiatic lily. They are stiff flowers that last a long time in bouquets. The bottom is coreopsis, a profusely flowering plant.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I've carefully worded my editorial email and will send it out tomorrow when I'm a lot more rested than today. I'm afraid I'm going to make a stupid mistake. Chautauqua is on my doorstep and the suitcase is getting stuffed.

Melanie found this turtle wandering around in the middle of our backyard. Boy, did Walt ever startle me. I turned my head and the feisty creature was dangling real close to my ear. At first, I didn't even recognize it as a turtle. I screamed. I'm not a turtle expert, but I think it was a painted turtle. I picked up the muddy squirming creature and placed it at the edge of the wet woods. Now, I'm wondering if I should have driven it to a pond. It was quite a ways away from the pond in the woods and quite eager to get moving away from me. I can't say that I blame it. When I cropped one photo so it was only the head I noticed what looked like a snail on the shell. Maybe it was a chunk of mud?

Friday, July 8, 2011


Lately I've been thinking big, big, big. Before I act, I have to do some research and make some decisions. Speaking of decisions, I'm real happy with mine and where they've taken me. I'm leaving for Chautauqua Friday morning and staying in Jamestown Friday night. The way bombs drop around here, I'll believe it when I get there.

This clematis has been creeping through the holes in the lattice and is profusely flowering on both sides of the railing. A fine vine indeed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I'm hoping my suitcase can pack itself, so I can collapse inside it. It's been a busy couple of weeks shuttling to the hospital, painting the house and struggling to accomplish something. As a science writer I'm always asking questions. My mother has told me more than once that I ask too many. I shoot them out like gunfire. Yesterday I asked what a dense stroke was. You know, my mother was right.

Yesterday I met with my writing friends for 3 1/2 hours. We meet at an eating area of a grocery store. A sparrow (which I named Jack) flew around inside the store and eavesdropped at the next table. I wish I had my camera! My friend suggested a more inventive word in place of "big." The conversation tanked after that. It wasn't long before the guy in the next booth up and left. I am glad they made me laugh. Today, I spent the day poring over crit group suggestions and revising. I still have the last piece and those emails to finish.

More flowers today--day lilies and clematis.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


All the pieces of my current writing project are done except one. Hopefully, this week I can steal away some time to finish the meat of the thing. It's a powerful package.

Here's another recipe for busy writers. I made this yesterday and loved it. The apricots hold up real well and don't turn brown or mushy the second day.:

Cranberry Apricot Chicken Salad
- Use leftover chicken or grill boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used a grill pan).
- Chop chicken.
- Add chopped fresh apricots, dried cranberries and mayo. Season with salt, pepper and a bit of tarragon
- Serve over lettuce, between bread or eat it straight

I've been shuttling back and forth to the hospital all week. This morning, I picked a bunch of hydrangeas and brought them with me. Would I love them as much if they were pink? The soft blue petals are striking They remind me of fresh fallen snow.