Monthly Archives: March 2014


March 12, 2014


I listened to an interesting presentation this morning about why we find ourselves “stuck” perpetuating situations that we don’t like, don’t want, and sometimes have even worked very hard to change. For every step forward, there seems to be at least a half-step slide back; sometimes a full scale tumble back to the bottom. 

The other morning I found myself spouting self-criticisms at myself and accusations at my partner that I thought were dead, buried and decomposed.  But here they were, back from the dead, maybe not exactly in kick-ass form, but definitely alive in a mouldery sort of way. 

“Where the hell did that come from?  Do I really believe what I’m thinking and saying and feeling,” I thought?

I went for a long walk in the sunshiny, melty day…the warmest day we’ve had since sometime before Thanksgiving.  First I told Jack to cool his jets.  He’s a Tiger.  He’s the form my Ego has taken in order for my story-oriented brain to be able to wrap itself around the existential questions and concepts I find so fascinating.  Jack haruffed about a bit, then curled up in a corner, apparently asleep.  Except I don’t think Tigers ever really sleep.

My mind clearer, I did something radically different than I usually do when my heart feels full of lead and the lump in my throat is damming up my tears.  I gave thanks.  I gave thanks for the difficult day and my heavy heart and for the morning’s difficult conversation and all the unanswered questions and all my disappointed desires.  I figured there was a lesson in here somewhere and that maybe paying attention and opening up to the lesson with gratitude would make a difference.

By the time I arrived back home after wading through the woods where a large herd of deer make their home, I could sense that something was coming into focus.  My heart still felt heavy and tired, but I reminded myself that it would pass and I would understand things better later.  With that I sat down and finished a script and then went and met a friend.  Later I worked on the script notes and finished up my day with a conference call.  By bedtime I was too tired to think much about what I felt like.

The next morning the sun leapt up and commenced his climb to the top of the sky.  The night seemed to have dissolved my troubles; I too felt like climbing to the top of the sky.  Looking back now I realize that my difficult day was evidence that my very intention to become kinder, softer, happier and more connected with my partner had dislodged more of the debris that is in the way.  It had indeed not been a day of sliding back into old patterns, but a day of undoing old patterns.  The fine line between was crossed when I sent Jack the Great Defender to the corner and opened myself to understanding and gave thanks. 

The presentation this morning was by Christie Marie Sheldon on How To Change Your Frequency To Change Your Reality.  She talked about what happens in our energy field when we get stuck in a negative pattern–whether that is in relationships, our health, our economic experiences or just our ‘dumb luck’.  What happens is that our cycle of thought-creating beliefs perpetuate the vibrational frequency that we emit into the space around us.  Because like attracts like, we draw to ourselves more of whatever we are thinking, focused upon, speaking, and most especially, the vibrational frequency we are emitting as a result.  We can guess well what this frequency is by our emotional state, as well as our knee-jerk trigger reactions in certain situations. 

The Map (or Scale) of Consciousness is a numerical scale whereby one can measure positive from negative, power from force and truth from falsehood. Dr. Hawkins believes that every word, every thought, and every intention creates what is called a morphogenetic field, or attractor field, and that these energy fields can be measured through the process of Applied Kinesiology.  The research was scientifically-validated and published in Dr. Hawkins’ doctorate dissertation titled Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis and Calibrations of the Level of Human Consciousness.  His book, Power vs. Force (Revised Edition): The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior (Hay House, 2012) explained how world leaders throughout history led based on what level they were at on the Map of Consciousness. Lower levels like fear, lead the world into chaos. 

Briefly, each level of consciousness (LOC) coincides with determinable human behaviors and perceptions about life. Each level represents a corresponding attractor field of varying strength that exists beyond our three-dimensional reality. There’s a critical point within each LOC from which its field gravitates (or entrains). The numbers on the scale represent logarithmic calibrations (measurable vibratory frequencies on a scale which increases to the tenth power) of the levels of human consciousness and its corresponding level of reality. The numbers themselves are arbitrary; the significance lies in the relationship of one number (or level) to another (e.g., Dr. Hawkins’ scale is from 1 to 1000).
As I listened to Ms. Sheldon’s presentation, I reflected again on the incident the other day.  I can see the pattern, if a bit faded.  The grooves in my psyche are deep and like ruts in a road, if I allow the tire to slip in, it’s pretty certain I will once again be bumping down the road in that tiresome old rut.  Shame, guilt, fear–my old companions.  Bottom of the damn scale!  Ms. Sheldon made the comment that of the people she works with, those who take the longest to clear old frequencies and shift their energy to higher frequencies are those whose thought patterns have been entrenched–entrained–with the corresponding frequencies of shame and guilt.  


God-view     Self-view        Level                  Log                Emotion         Process
Self                   Is            Enlightenment       700 – 1,000   Ineffable           Pure Consciousness
All-being     Perfect           Peace                     600               Bliss                  Illumination
One           Complete          Joy                         540               Serenity            Transfiguration
Loving       Benign             Love                       500               Reverence         Revelation
Wise          Meaningful      Reason                   400               Understanding   Abstraction
Merciful     Harmonious    Acceptance            350               Forgiveness       Transcendence
Inspiring    Hopeful           Willingness            310               Optimism           Intention
Enabling    Satisfactory     Neutrality              250                Trust                  Release
Permitting  Feasible          Courage                 200                Affirmation        Empowerment

Indifferent    Demanding      Pride                    175               Scorn                  Inflation
Vengeful     Antagonistic      Anger                   150               Hate                   Aggression
Denying      Disappointing    Desire                   125              Craving              Enslavement
Punitive       Frightening        Fear                     100              Anxiety              Withdrawal
Uncaring     Tragic                 Grief                      75              Regret                Despondency
Condem-     Hopeless             Apathy, hatred     50              Despair              Abdication
Vindictive     Evil                   Guilt                      30              Blame                Destruction
Despising    Hateful               Shame                    20              Humiliation       Elimination

It has been a long road.  It has taken me a long time to clear the old frequencies of shame and guilt, grief, fear.  In reading further about Dr. Hawkins work, (I’m going to get his book!) I read what I already suspected: few of us are static in one place on this scale.  We operate at different levels based on our past experiences and operative beliefs about those experiences.  I can see that because of the work I have done to shift my thinking, my beliefs and consequently my attitudes, I have crossed that threshold into courage and willingness and acceptance.  Sometimes I even operate for a few minutes up in those wonderful levels that radiate love and joy.  But I am aware of the drag on my progress and certain situations can send me into a free-fall down into the dark depths again of shame, guilt, and fear

I am blessed to have a chiropractor who practices Applied Kinesiology and has done emotional clearings with me related to these low vibrational frequencies.  I have been blessed to have been allowed so many amazing experiences in my life that have helped me re-create my life while slowly learning what it means to shift how I think, what I think, how I view mySelf and this world and the greater Universe–how I view this Holy Presence, this Creator, this Source that I have called “God”. 

I am very, very grateful for the many lessons I have been allowed, the Grace that has buffered me, the Love that has held me even when I had no idea I was being held, no idea that I was loved.  During my life as a grumpy caterpillar all I could see was the muddy ground and all I could do was keep crawling along looking for “food”.  I gazed enviously at the beautiful winged creatures, wishing I could do what they did, wishing I could fly away.  Then came the season when I got shut up inside a funky space in my life and all I knew dissolved into a smelly soup.  Then one morning as the sun climbed to the top of the sky my closed up little world split open top to bottom spilling me out.  For a long pause I clung to the branch on which I found myself–something about it was familiar.  But I have come to understand just enough that now there is nothing for it but to spread my wings–my glorious butterfly wings, and take to the skies! I have this song running through my head…I wish I could sing it for you…”Oh joy, oh joy
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh joy; I thought love was blind, I opened my eyes, now it’s all that I see. My tears are washed clean from all I’ve been through in that holy stream, the beautiful stream of the joy that is you…”  The Joy That Is You

The secret I have learned is that although we may think we are stuck, we aren’t.  We are never stuck.  As long as we draw breath in this body we are called to journey upwards to living lives from the heart, lives of courage and humility, of gratitude and forgiveness,  of love and of joy.  We are called to pilgrimage, to leave the comfort zones of the illusions we’ve bought and sold, to become the hero of our own story and experience transformation from frogs to kings–from paupers to princes–from grumpy caterpillars to beautiful fairy butterflies. 


February 25, 2014


The Boy In The Subway

The boy is sitting at the end of the subway car.  He wears a coat with a ragged hem, a dirty knit cap and a sign: Down on my luck Please Help.  He carries a banged up drink cup in which a few coins clink.  No gloves.  It is 29 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stepping into the late night train, my friends and I grab hold of the center pole between the doors.  I set my 45-pound pack on the floor at my feet, groaning, flexing my shoulders.  My friend chats with the man from the show we’ve just seen.  We are flushed with a good time, sweet drinks, good food, and a brisk walk.

As the train jerks into motion, the boy stands up and ghosts through the car—hoping.  I keep my eyes on my friend.  I think she is talking about a scene from the show.  Or maybe where she lives in Queens, a lovely two-bedroom apartment full of light and comfort.  I want to give something to the boy; to look into his tired face and into his dull, brown eyes and say, “Hello;” effectively saying—“I see you.  You exist.  I honor the light in you as another human like myself.”

Maybe he hears my thoughts.  I look steadily into the face of the man from the show and answer his question as the boy pauses at the end of the car.  And then I feel him ghosting back through the car, passing behind me, brushing softly against my clean, bright blue North Face jacket.

I slide my eyes to the side and watch him slump back into his seat at the end of the car.  He sighs.  His hands scrub his face and then hold his head up as his elbows come to rest against his knees poking through his torn, crusty jeans.

I can feel the single dollar bills burning in my pocket. My heart jumps about like my dog when she wants to go for a walk.

The advice I’ve been given from my New York friends replays in my head:

“Just ignore them.  So many of them are just scamming…”

But, how do we tell the difference?

“I work hard for my money.  They don’t choose to.  That’s their choice. There’re plenty of jobs in this city.  They could get one if they wanted to.”  “But, maybe they haven’t the skills, or the opportunities, or the strength or the courage or the know-how to navigate this crazy system like we do?

“You have to be careful.  I mean, every day you run into these people—you get used to it.  You can’t help them all.”  But surely, we could acknowledge them?  Or we could give some change to a few every day, the change from dropping dollars into the cashier’s hand at the lunch counter? 

The presence of these dirty, raggedy, brothers and sisters of ours dredge up shame in us…robbing us of the pleasure of our blessings—accusatory as we gather our comfort and privilege like a walled fortress around us.

I brightly engage in the conversation with my friends, hearing not a word I will recall.  The boy, I will remember.  I leave the train without a backward glance while tears burn behind my eyes.


February 25, 2014
The 9-11 Memorial

Passing block after block of towering buildings, modern glass and steel mixed up with stone dragons and gargoyles, brick and marble, we come at last to the barricades.  The fence is high and covered with ad papered boards and blue plastic tarps.  Signs tell us we are here: the 9-11 Memorial.  Behind the fencing is a construction zone; diggers and dumpsters and pipes and piles of dirt surrounding half formed buildings.  I wonder who will work or play there someday?

Looking up I see a triangular building of glass stretching above all the others, its pointy tower trying to prick the clouds.  “That’s the Freedom Tower,” says my friend.  Officially known as One World Trade Center, it is now the tallest building in the western hemisphere, fourth tallest in the world, soaring 1,776 feet above the pools where once the Twin Towers stood.  It grew out of the debris of Tower 6.  Tower 6?  Just an insignificant 8-story building damaged in the 9-11 attacks and later demolished to make way for the reconstruction of the current One World Trade Center. 
We join the bunches of people being directed to line up and walk soberly between the ropes that guide us behind the plastic curtains out of sight of the hurrying pedestrians.  We offer our donations and wind our way down the sidewalk and through security.  Just like the airports.  Bags in bins, coats in bins, phones and cameras and computers in bins.  Really?  We are this afraid?
Huge signs tell us to be quiet; this is a sacred sight.  There—the two pools where once the Twin Towers stood.  Here—a pear tree struggling to make a come back after being blown apart on 9-11.  Across from us a memorial museum that will open soon.  And over all, the Freedom Tower.
I stare up wondering.  Is this a monument to the freedom we claim to possess and will fight to the death to protect?  At least we’ll send someone to fight and if necessary to die to protect “our way of life”.  I can’t help but wonder though if the real truth is that this is a monument to the fragile shell of our freedom, a freedom that broke apart disintegrating into dust and ash that morning a dozen years ago.  Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…he took a great fall…and not a one of us have been able to put him back together again. 
My friend is looking around; she sighs.  I look around at the people milling about.  I look at the signs.  I look at the names etched into the marble wall surrounding the pools where the Towers once stood.  A four-sided waterfall, the water falls down into a lower pool, and then disappears down a large hole at the bottom.  The walls weep eternally for those who died here.  I weep silently for those who were caught in the Towers that disappeared before our eyes; who never came home to kiss their sweethearts and hug their children.

I weep for the lies and the corruption and the Great Scam we have willingly allowed to be perpetrated upon us.
Why are we so unwilling to wake up?  I stand there in the center of the plaza thinking about the movie The Matrix—thousands of people going about their lives—none of it real—the people didn’t know the difference.  They didn’t want to know. 
I have told friends and family members about the research and information regarding 9-11.  They resist.  Now, as we stand in that very place, I tell my friend about the theories of controlled demolition supported by so many intelligent, educated men and women—engineers, scientists, architects.  I tell her about Judy Wood, the courageous scientist who has dedicated her life to researching what happened to the World Trade Center on 9-11…her impeccable, scientific research made public in a book titled, “Where Did The Towers Go?”   
My friend is silent. 

I trail my fingers along the marble wall of the South Pool, over the names etched deeply there.  I nod to the Pear Tree.

We leave the park and head for the Staten Island Ferry.  As we churn through the waters I gaze at the Statue of Liberty, imprisoned on her tiny island. 

Manhattan falls away behind us, the Freedom Tower looming above the skyline.   


February 27, 2014
Walkabout #2
My friend, Gina the Gypsy meets me at the hotel after the conference.  She has 24 hours to show me her New York City.  Tomorrow afternoon she will turn me over to my other friend, Jen, the actress.  Both young women are from Duluth where I live now.  Gina has traveled about from one adventure to another.  She lived in Puerto Rico for a number of years, eventually ending up in New York.  Jen came out here to pursue her dream to sing and to perform on stage and in film.  Gina continues to embrace the world and have adventures.  Jen has found her way into a few movies and commercials and after only two years, has woven herself into quite a network of interesting people.  I am excited to have this short time to get to know them both better—and to see New York through their eyes.
Gina and I head out into a sunny, 52 degree Fahrenheit afternoon.   
We walk toward the New York Public Library, the bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk leading us toward the palatial, marble building. 

I’ve already been there, so we pass it by and head toward the High Line.  A former elevated railway, it has been turned into a lovely walking path with gardens and art along the way.  Of course, other than the evergreen trees, the gardens are naked, the grasses brown, some things still covered in snow.  There are benches to sit upon and watch the world stroll by.  No one is in a hurry here.  I can imagine that in the summer there are musicians and other street performers here.  The views allow peeks between the buildings into the harbor beyond.

We come to the end of the line and after a sweep through the Chelsea Market for something to eat, we head for the subway; my first New York Subway ride.  Once on the train, it looks and feels much like being on the L in Chicago…or even the Tube in London.  The stations though are different.  Closer, tighter, darker.  I keep imagining that I’m in a movie.
We head to the 911 Memorial…
then the Staten Island Ferry…and then another train for home.  

We are in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan—yet, there are hardly any people, and even fewer folk after we leave the Ferry landing for home.  Near empty streets.  Empty parks.  Only a few people on the subway.  I relax.  I can take it in now—deeply.  But it is too much still—all the stories, all the history, all this energy come together in this place, building up over a few hundred years.

Gina cooks up an amazing vegetarian dinner.  I heap my plate.  Having grown up in New York, Gina’s partner John tells me stories.  They talk about their amazing food cooperative that was actually featured on The Daily Show (he shows me the clip).  We talk a bit of politics.  It is late when we all finally find our beds.  Gina and John rent out space in their home through the AirBnB site, but their guests are still out on the town.  I go to sleep with my meditation music and ideas and images whirling through my thoughts.
Next morning Gina and I head for the nearby park to walk her sweet dog, Boo.  It is quiet and we meet only a few people.  The sun is shining and the birds are having choir practice—preparing for the Spring Festival, no doubt.  After breakfast, when I mistakenly eat all the delicious guacamole, we head for the Brooklyn Bridge.  We finally find all the people—and they are mostly headed for Manhattan. 
As we cross the bridge, I am fascinated by the people, the buildings, the water winding through everything.  The ships look like toys down below us.  
 My heart is light…I want to spread my arms and fly, even with the 45 lb pack on my back! 

We slowly make our way to the Quintessence Restaurant…an organic, raw food, vegan restaurant Gina used to work at.  The menu looks delicious.  “My treat!” I say.  It’s 2:00.  There’s no way we will make it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by 2:30 where we are to meet Jen.  So Jen comes to meet us just as we are digging into our Pave De Chocolate-Raspberry dessert.  I introduce them and they then discover that Jen went to High School with Gina’s sister.  Small world indeed. 
Our hunger sated, and time running short, Gina bids us goodbye and Jen flags down a taxi to hurry us off to the Met Museum.  We will only have about 45 minutes…what can you possibly see at a two block square, multi-level museum in 45 minutes?  But Jen insists—and I realize that the experience might be more memorable than spending an entire afternoon!
I am rewarded!  There in the Impressionists Exhibit I find some of my favorites—Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir…and my very favorite Renoir painting is on display!  When I was pregnant with my second child, I had a borrowed Renoir print hanging next to my bed.   I said if my baby was a girl, I wanted to own that print.  She was, and I do.  And strangely, my older daughter was brunette, my second daughter a blonde.                  I love this painting! 
Jen has secured free seats at a comedy improv show for us—Face Off.  We head over on the train to the neighborhood, looking first for some dinner.  I find an organic grocer and order a smoothie in a bowl.  It is delicious.  For $12 I would hope so!  When we get to the show, it is in the basement of a Japanese restaurant famous for their sushi.  We eat sushi and drink mojitos and laugh until our cheeks hurt. 

What a lovely finish to my stay in New York!


February 26, 2014

The SCBWI Conference Day 3

The Gala Dinner and Meet & Greet last evening were very pleasant.  I finally found my Regional Advisor and met some others from Minneapolis/St. Paul area, including a man who had been in my second critique group.  He read the opening of his wonderful Middle Grade novel he’s working on based on a painting he had seen called Vegetarian Vampires.

I met a woman who lives not far from this hotel and has been working for several years on her book for Middle Graders about the coral reefs with a cast of intriguing and hilariously fishy characters.  I ran into several women who I had met in the critique circles.  One of them, Doris, had such a great story twist on Goldilocks that I could easily see her the next Mo Willems.  I have a collection of business cards now in my briefcase.  New friends.

This morning I find a platter of GF bagels on the Bagel table and the Food and Beverage Manager is standing nearby.  I smile at him.  In his thick New York accent he says, “I thought of you this morning and even though I was told to only bring them out if asked for, I thought I’d put out this tray anyway.”  Just then a young woman comes up and sees the tray with its little sign and says, “Oh!  Oh I’m so excited!  I’ve been having to go out every morning to find my own food!”  The Manager and I smile at each other.

The first speaker is author Kate Messner on The Spectacular Power of Failure.  This has been the theme of my life the past several years: how to live with, release, or generally not be undone by the fear of failing. Actually, it might be more accurate to say it has been the theme of my life.  Like, forever my life.  And most of my life I failed spectacularly at overcoming my fear of failing because I was trying to overcome it.  You can’t overcome, i.e. win out over Fear.  If you try and land a punch it’ll beat the snot out of you.  If you try and run away, it chases you down and eats you up alive.  I learned some years back that the only way to not be controlled by it was to do the lion and the lamb thing and lay down and take a nap on it’s belly.  Except I was too scared to shut my eyes.

Learning to deal with the Fear of Failure that has controlled nearly every aspect of my life has been a long pilgrimage for me.  I guess I’m not surprised to meet up with it again here at the Conference.  Kate obviously said a lot of noteworthy things since I have five pages of notes from her address.  But a few jump out at me asking for stars and circles.

Be brave.  It’s okay to be afraid.  If you weren’t nervous about what you are attempting, it wouldn’t be worth doing.  You can’t have brave without scared.

As artists we set goals, and then we move the bar on ourselves…’I will write 10 minutes a day…finish the book by…get an agent…get published…win an award…if I could just.’  There is no end.  When we keep moving the bar, we cheat ourselves out of the pleasure of small successes.  Notice those small successes!  Celebrate them!

Athletes and engineers and children “fail” a lot and accept that as part of the process.  The only way to achieve what they’re trying to do is to try, fail, adjust, learn, keep going, do it again…over and over until they get it right.  We as artists need to have the same attitude.

Never, never give up.

Nikki Grimes, author of middle grade fiction written in verse is our final speaker of the day.  She speaks so beautifully, it is difficult to believe that once she was in the audience—new, hopeful, frustrated, scared.  She tells her story and she advocates for us to be patient with ourselves and our learning process.  Like anything beautiful, we have to be given time to grow, time to ripen, time to become—and so does our art.



February 26, 2014

The SCBWI Conference Day 2

Saturday morning the conference attendees have quadrupled—at least.  The Investors are gone; the writers and illustrators have taken over the entire floor.  We now have four ten-foot tables spread with bagels and coffee and tea.  No GF bagels.  I hunt down the Food and Beverage Manager for my personal plate of bagels I can eat.

Lin Oliver is our MC and she is very funny.  Sitting in this huge ballroom with hundreds of writers, I feel like I’m “home”.  All my tension ebbs and as Jack Gantos takes the stage to talk to us about his writing and the elements of writing and children and books, I am lost to all else.  Only this remains, this one thing I have wanted to be since I was a little girl of seven—a writer.

Jack is very funny.  We are laughing so hard some of us have to wipe tears off our cheeks.  As he tells us his secrets of how he writes his books, I hear the same core elements that I have heard before but Jack has adapted them to fit his style and personality.  And I receive permission to do the same—make these elements of writing work for me.  Develop good writing habits that work for me.

I am scribbling notes and ideas furiously.  But then Jack says something that causes me to go very still inside and I know this is a sacred moment for me.  He says, “The reason you read books is to change, to grow, to feel things, to learn.  This must happen in the story if it is to happen to you, the reader.  A good book is like an infection—it changes you.”  I am not sure why this is so important, but I write it down.

My morning breakout session is with an editor from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ‘s Books for Young Readers.  Within the first few minutes of her presentation she says, “Picture Books really matter!  This is when children fall in love with books for the first time.  Children are learning about the world, forming impressions.  Picture books stick with us throughout our lives…”  First Jack Gantos, now this editor, addressing the deep down doubt that has held me back from fully giving myself to my children’s writing.  I miss the next few things she says because I am wiping some tears from my cheek.

The editor goes through the essential ingredients of good picture books.  It is heartening to me to see that I have instinctively known many of these and incorporated them into my writing.  But I see lots of room for me to grow, to come alive and to bring that life into my books.

The final gift of the morning is the special privilege those of us are given who attended this Houghton Mifflin session: we may submit a manuscript and it will be given special attention—i.e. it will get read and considered.  No slush pile.  No agent needed.  Should I send my ducks waddling over to H.M.’s Books for Young Readers?

The afternoon is also full up with information.  I am getting tired, but I find a seat at the end of the day to listen to a panel talk about banned books.  One of the speakers is Ellen Hopkins, author of award winning YA novels dealing with tough contemporary and extremely relevant issues.  She takes the podium and lights the place on fire!  Do I know that over 75% of banned and challenged books are children’s books?  No.  Do I know that YA books are the most targeted and that there are increasing challenges to books in high schools in the advanced and accelerated learning classes?  No.  Do I realize that the intellectual freedom of children is under severe assault—look at standardized testing and NCLB policies and zero-tolerance policies, just for starters.  Yes!  That one I knew!  “Banned books,” says Ellen, “is one sliver of this assault!”

Ellen goes on: “Children deserve the right to read.  Books give you insight and knowledge.  Is it the truth?  Put it in!  Write bravely!   We know who we’re writing for—we have a responsibility to our readers!  We have a responsibility to the children!”

I came to New York with an intention: I wanted to resolve for myself whether or not it is my purpose and path to write for children.  I have had this desire in me for as long as I can remember, one that I have alternately ignored, played with, worked hard at and abandoned.  But always I have returned, like the night bugs to the light.  When I do, joy and pleasure wells up inside me.  If I go home from this conference with nothing else, having this nagging question answered for me would be enough.

I write for children because children matter, because books matter, because children need good books.  Good books open up our imaginations, help us process the world around us, stimulate creativity and critical thinking.  I write for children because they deserve good books.


February 26, 2014


The SCBWI Conference: Day 1

Friday morning I rise, refreshed, excited and hungry.  I do my meditation and some yoga stretches; take my shower.  Content that I look relaxed, refreshed and professional, I take up my binder with my manuscript and my notepads, my pens and pencils, my business cards, hotel key card, credit card, some money and my phone.  I descend to the Ballroom level and exit into a hive of busy conference attendees.

On one end are the SCBWI pre-conference attendees; hopeful writers and illustrators come to have their work critiqued by peers and the publishing gods—various and sundry book agents and editors.  On the other end is a conference of investors.  The investors have a 30 foot long spread of breakfast delights: fruit and meat and eggs and yogurts and custards and cereals and breads of all kinds, teas and coffees, juices and water.  On our end is a 10 foot long spread of bagels, coffee and tea.  Nothing is gluten free.

Ask and you shall receive, it is said.  I checked in and I asked, “Who can I speak to about providing a gluten free option for those of us who may need that?”  I was told there was supposed to be a gluten free option.  When we brought it to the attention of the Food and Beverage Manager, I was brought a gluten free bagel on a plate—just for me.  The fruit from the market in the lobby cost me $4.00.  I asked if please, the next two mornings would they have a platter of them out as I was certain in a crowd this large I wouldn’t be the only gluten free person.

The morning panel was so memorable I don’t remember a thing and haven’t any notes.

Critique session one I brought my story, Don’t Pick the Apples, Robert.  Written 30 years ago and pulled from my dusty files some 10 years ago, Robert and his apples have undergone so many revisions they’ve gotten shiny.  A little bloody too.  Robert’s story was chopped to in half some months ago following a Picture Book workshop in Minneapolis.  Apparently it was a wound worth suffering. The only critical feedback given was that I should think more like an illustrator and try to eliminate the descriptions in the text that will be shown in the illustrations.  That of course leads this non-illustrating writer to asking a dozen more questions.

At lunchtime I head for the entrance to the Grand Central Terminal and its Dining Concourse, joining the bustling crowd outside the hotel.  After yesterday’s walkabout I had written my author friend my impressions of NYC: “NYC is intimidating and SO crowded and busy!  I haven’t seen too much of it…  Won’t be sad to return home to the snow and forests and empty spaces.” 

She had written back a challenge:  “Just so you know, you are talking to a New Yorker who loves NYC.  So I hope you will see the beauty in all the bustle and boundless creativity of humanity that is on display wherever you turn.”

I find myself looking at the people through different eyes today.  I note the incredible diversity of face and style.  There are policemen and workmen; beggars and well-dressed men in expensive suits, women fresh from designer boutiques; mothers dragging noisy children; teenagers bopping to the beat only they can hear.  In the space of two buildings I quickly count 30 people.  All are moving purposefully and quickly, hardly breaking stride if a tourist suddenly makes an unexpected turn or stops dead-center.  The people and the traffic combine into an amazingly intricate dance of color and light.  I wonder about the stories each one of these people are living out.

The Dining Concourse is more crowded than the streets, everyone weaving in and out of each other’s space.  I imagine that I can see the trails of energy with each passing person.  I get some wild mushroom lentil soup and head back to the hotel.  It is quieter there.

In the afternoon I offer my little story Duck, Duck, Goose to another group of peers and an editor for their feedback.  I get a perfect 10 with the qualifier that I should drop the last four lines—they aren’t needed.  I sit quietly smiling; inside I am dancing on the table!  It has been a long, four and a half year journey to this conference in New York.

Later as I head up to my room with a salad from Grand Central—and a chocolate shake to celebrate—the doubts start whispering…the ones I came here intending to resolve.  So what’s the big deal about a silly little story about ducks?  Do you think writing stuff like this matters?  Don’t you think you should spend more time writing stuff that’s important?  You want to change the world…how you gonna do that with silly ducks and little boys who love apples?