Cathy-on-a-Stick Makes a Comeback

So I could tell you all about the amazing bits of writer wisdom I sucked up from all the amazing speakers at the SCBWI conference I just attended.

Or I could direct you to the Muffin where I expounded on some of my best “After the Conference”┬átips and advice (and I’d love to hear yours, too).

But what I really want to dish about is this pic:

Mitchard and MacLachlan

And yes, that IS the New York Times best-selling author Jacquelyn Mitchard AND the Newbery award winner (for Sara Plain and Tall) Patricial MacLachlan. And yes, that’s Cathy-on-a-Stick right in the middle of ’em.

First, let me just say this: if you ever have an opportunity to hear either of these women, you must go. And I mean, run, don’t walk, to whatever venue they’re appearing. Because both of these glorious women–authors, moms, business persons–are simply two of the smartest, wittiest, warmest and honest women I’ve ever met.

And here’s the conversation we had about Cathy-on-a-Stick after they signed my books:

Me: Can I get a picture of y’all with Cathy-on-a-Stick?

PM (who is nearly blind so could not see details of what I was holding): What is that?

JM takes C-o-a-S.

Me: It’s just a picture of me, on a stick.

PM: Well, that’s stupid. (Or did she say silly? Ridiculous? It doesn’t matter. It was clear she thought it was stupid. And I had to agree with her. )

JM. No, it’s not. I think it’s pretty clever. (Or did she say cute? Whichever, it was clear she thought Cathy-on-a-Stick was funny. And I agree with that as well.)

PM shrugs. I tell her that Jane Yolen had the same reaction but she was a good sport about it. PM does not seem too impressed but she was not going to let Jane Yolen one up her.

JM: Take the picture!

And so now I have this wonderful picture and I laugh every time I look at it, thinking of Patricia MacLachlan dissing Cathy-on-a-Stick and Jacquelyn Mitchard coming to my pic-on-a-stick’s defense.

Oh my word, I do so love an SCBWI writer’s conference!


A Labyrinth, A Writing Tip, and Cathy-on-a-Stick

So…the writing retreat in Alabama at the convent. I thought I was going to take all sorts of pictures because, really, it was lovely out there. And I thought I’d gather all sorts of writing revelations to share with you.

The convent grounds included a labyrinth and I am fascinated by labyrinths so I dashed back to my room for camera and Cathy-on-a-Stick:

retreat 011

Unfortunately, I remembered too late that I’d dropped this particular camera and broken the zoom so it’s a little difficult to see Cathy-on-a-Stick but she’s there, leaning against a brick. I’d like to say that she and I walked the labyrinth but as it was 212 degrees in the shade, I determined to come back later for a walkabout.

And then I saw this stand with ribbons:

retreat 012

A friend and I talked and decided that they were prayer ribbons, meant to be carried as one walked through the labyrinth, meditating and praying. I like the idea of prayer ribbons–they remind me of the Buddhist prayer flags–and perhaps you’ve come across them in your town or travels. (You can read about one such place here, at Spiritual Travels.) The ribbon helps one to focus (as well as the twists and turns of the labyrinth) and several writers said they walked the labyrinth, focusing on a story problem, hoping for a solution.

Freeing your mind by concentrating on a simple task–like walking a path or washing your hair–often releases creativity. I’m a strong believer in showers (or a long bath) to get a story unstuck and I’ll bet you have a favorite go-to to get unstuck, even if you’re not aware of it. Washing dishes, maybe, or working in a garden, walking a treadmill or cleaning a tub. The routine of the task doesn’t require a lot of focus and so your mind can wander and explore. Try doing something dull and tedious the next time your plot gets into a rut and watch how you dig yourself out with a brilliant idea!

As for me and my brilliant ideas–um…those are the only pictures I took. And that’s pretty much my only writing revelation. But it’s a good one, right? (Cathy-on-a-Stick thought I made a couple good points.)

(P.S. Last chance to be included in the giveaway of There’s a Hamster in My Dashboard by David Berner. Zip over to this post and leave a comment!)

Oxymoron of the Day: Working Vacation

ImageIn America, we don’t really do working vacations.

We work. We vacation. We work some more. We dream about vacation. We work a little bit more. We take a long weekend. We grouse and work some more.

Yep, that’s what the good Lord intended, right?

But in other parts of the world, working vacations are not so crazy. And the more I thought about this thing called a working vacation, the more I liked the concept for a writer. Because despite the temptation to chuck it all and take a well-deserved, nice, long break from writing, that’s not such a good idea.

Of course, I had to learn the hard way. But you do not. All you have to do is read The Muffin today to learn all about this strange thing I call the Writer’s Working Vacation.

(Cathy-on-a-Stick was really the one behind this idea, so any criticism should be directed her way. Though I should warn you: she’s not a good listener. Possibly due to the fact that she only has one ear. And that she’s a pic. Also, she’s on vacation.)