Five years ago, I attended a Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop and it changed my life.
But maybe not the way you think.
I mean, of course it made a tremendous difference in my writing. You can’t have one-on-one critique sessions and workshops with accomplished authors and editors and not become a better writer. I expected that. What I didn’t expect were the friendships that would grow out of that week. And how those writer friends would make a difference in my life.
Like Nanci Turner Steveson. Nanci’s debut novel, Swing Sideways, is coming out in the spring and that’s super exciting. But that’s not why she’s here today. Nanci’s here because of one of her writer friends, Betsy MacLeod.
Nanci, tell us about your friend, Betsy, and what’s going on in her life right now?
Betsy is not only my friend and critique partner, but she is a beloved mentor and author in the KidLit community. She lives in CT and is very involved in SCBWI and an assortment of other writing organizations. She shines a bright light everywhere, one of those people always ready to reach out and help someone else. She is responsible for helping me get a lot of what is golden in SWING SIDEWAYS to rise to the surface.
Last May, Betsy’s husband, John, lost his job due to symptoms of what we now know were related to ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. For those who are not familiar with this fatal illness, it is what the medical community often refers to as “the worst diagnosis possible.”
By the time of his diagnosis in December, John had been hospitalized several times due to falls. He is now in a wheelchair, and they either need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on modifications to their home plus hire professional caregivers who can do what Betsy cannot (like lift or turn him), or John needs to be put into a facility equipped to handle his rapidly failing body. Either way, the costs are astronomical. It’s impossible to understand the treacherous path they are traveling, but we want to help.
And so you and a couple other writers joined together to sponsor this very special Kidlit Auction. Where can we sign up? Get all the details?
There is a GoFundMe page which has raised money, but additionally, myself and three other friends of Betsy’s involved in the KidLit community (Anika Denise, Sally Riley and Debbie Michio-Florence), have put together a truly incredible online auction to try to help them get through the financial part of this tragedy.
The auction starts March 17 and runs through March 30. The site is live now, but bidding starts on the 17th. I am in the process of uploading donations to the site (wait for it, wait . . .) and will admit, all the love I’ve been feeling for Betsy and John has brought me to tears several times. In the meantime there is a Facebook page people can join to get updates and sneak peeks of some of the generous and exciting items we will be auctioning off.
So, how about sharing a few sneak peeks so we can start saving our pennies (and dreaming!)?
You won’t believe these donations. We have everything from a week stay at Jane Yolen’s gorgeous mansion in Scotland, to manuscript critiques from editors (think HarperCollins, Bloomsbury, Christy Ottaviano Books), agents (The Bent Agency, Folio Jr, etc), and award winning authors like Kathi Appelt and Kate Messner. We have career consults from Tracey and Josh Adams (Adams Literary); original artwork (like an ORIGINAL watercolor of Paddington Bear!); and Lynda Mullaly Hunt has donated an entire evening dinner for five which includes her critique of their manuscripts. The Highlights Foundation donated TWO gift certificates for $500 each to go toward a selection of their workshops. We’ve got boxes and baskets of signed books; goodies from Vermont; a Cape Cod cottage retreat; a stay at Austin’s popular Writing Barn; and manuscript critiques for anyone at any level of their career.
There’s so much more, it’s overwhelming how these people have come together to support Betsy and John. Also, I want to be sure it’s clear there are many things non-writer people can bid on, too. It is not limited to KidLit folks.
It’s just incredible, the generosity of the writing community. And what about you, Nanci, what are you donating? And how can my reader/writer friends donate, too?
I am donating a middle grade critique, PLUS a signed copy of my novel, SWING SIDEWAYS, coming from HarperCollins on May 3.
We have some fabulous auction items; the best way people can help is to spread the word so more people will bid.
We can do that, Nanci! And thanks so much for stopping by today. And thanks to all y’all (yeah, that’s a thing we say here in the South, Nanci) for stopping by to give this post a read. You can make a difference in Betsy and John’s life. Because honestly, workshops, conferences, and critique groups are swell, but it’s the people you meet, the friends you grow to cherish, that make all the difference!