Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


A Different Menu

Anderson Center
Mis diez papitas
In my house in Portland, Oregon I have half a basement for an office. The room has two large desks, a love sofa, and a bookcase packed with books. I am often alone in the house, so I can write anywhere. But sometimes a writer needs a change of menu.

I wasn't going to attend our blog retreat at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, MN. My father had diedthe previous month and I thought I'd missed the retreat. But as soon as I heard otherwise, I began to plan.

I'd met Stephanie, Lauren, and Edie. Even though Mark lives in Whidbey Island, where I teach for the Northwest Literary Arts MFA, I'd never met him. I felt I knew Christy because she illustrated a Juan Bobo book for Felix Pitre. My grandsons love David's books, so I felt I knew him, too. The other papitas  I didn't know as well. Meeting them tempted me to take the trip. I wasn't disappointed. What a warm and talented group!

I could go on and on praising the group and telling about the fun moments we had together, but my intention here is to tell what happened when we were not socializing.

I've been for years trying to write a middle grade novel. Actually, I've written multiple terrible drafts. I knew that, if I could write a satisfying first chapter, the rest would follow smoothly. But despite the silence in my house, the first chapters had too many characters, told too much, lacked action, didn't entice the reader to keep on reading. That was the project to take to the blog retreat.

There are inspiring writing vibes at the Anderson Center. We all wrote and wrote and wrote. We wrote all morning every morning. We wrote all afternoon every afternoon. On Saturday, the ten papitas got together to share what we'd written. As I read my chapter, I glanced to see the reaction of my listeners. I knew then that I got it! I came home and finished another draft of the novel. A draft, all right, because I know an editor would ask for changes here and there. But this is the first time I am satisfied with a draft. I even added Doña Estafanía (Stephanie), Doña Laura (Lauren), and little David to a scene that talks about things they said at the critique.

For this I thank not just the papitas but the Anderson Center for their inspiration.              


Edie Hemingway said...

Carmen, I'm excited to hear that you've finished an entire new draft of your novel since our spud retreat! We need to do this more often.

Christy said...

Fabulous, Carmen! I can't wait to read your book. It was a pleasure finally getting to meet you. You truly completed the group; it wouldn't have been the same without you there.

Betsy Woods said...

Yeah Carmen! Can't wait to read.

Lauren said...

I agree Carmen, there are inspiring writing vibes at the Anderson Center. I wasn't there a full 24 hours, but even in that time, my fingers crossed the keyboards enough to revive a story saved four years ago.

Listening to the chapter you shared with us pulled my right in. I cannot wait to read the rest- The fact that you made it to the retreat at all seemed miraculous and now a finished draft that you are happy with. Yay!

David LaRochelle said...

Bravo, Carmen! Congratulations! To have already finished a new draft is amazing! And I'm tickled to be part of it (it's been a long time since I've been called "Little David")!

I agree with what everyone else said; I am so glad that you were able to make last minute plans to complete our group. It truly was magical to have all ten potatoes there. It's an experience we will all have in our shared memory.

Please keep us informed of what happens with this book.

john said...

Carmen, that's great to hear of your progress. i am excited to see where you take this story and where the story takes you.

I can not imagine the retreat without you. I am so glad that you were here.

Stephanie said...

I loved what you read to us and I'm so glad you stuck with it! And I'm tickled like David:)

mark said...

Carmen, you intrigued us all with your first chapter, and I am so thrilled to know that the inspiration from the Anderson Center carried over into completing a draft!