SCBWI Shasta County Schmooze

I just had yet another conversation with a local writer who will be attending our schmooze at The Elegant Bean on November 15. It’s going to be a party. Here’s the story.

Shasta County (and Cottonwood in particular)is small and rural. Rodeo is big and folks drink the football koolaid, starting their tykes out playing as early as they can hold themselves up while wearing pads. At the elementary school, they have two teams that play at recess: the Eagles (those on the team) and the “Suckies,” those who have not chosen to partake in the koolaid. You get the picture.

When we moved from LA less than a year ago, one of my biggest concerns was small town thinking and the impact that would have on my ability to find critique partners as dedicated as I was, network with other writers, attend conferences, workshops and retreats and so forth. My fear was I would be sitting in the corner reviewing the local practice times (and by default by snack bar shifts) for pee wee football lest my son be ostracized at his new school with no time to write and no writers to behold.

Quite the opposite has occurred.

First, I have written more then I have ever written in my life (and been paid for it as a refreshing change from my pro bono contributions when I started three years ago). The wide open space allows my mind to open somehow, giving me more ideas then I could finish in this lifetime and the quiet to play them out. I am now choosing my projects carefully as to finish revising my YA novel, though did recently have to act on an inspiration from a horse to complete a picture book (my first nonfiction).

Next, I have discovered many talented writers here. They keep a low profile, but have published numerous books and stay true to the craft. I noticed a large number of children’s writers around and not just the kind that say, “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book” (which is like, EVERYBODY.)

When I saw an invitation from local SCBWI RAs Patricia Newman and Erin Dealey to start a schmooze in the local area, I thought, why not? A few of us can meet and network. I sent a response with a venue (local joint where I write sometimes) and time. I got a response saying Linda Boyden wanted to do it, too. Linda and I had met through email correspondence before, and I was fairly certain she and I were the only SCBWI members in the North State. I was happy to work with her to find a time that worked for both of us, and the gig was on. That night it posted on SCBWI’s site.

“At least we’ll have two people there,” I thought. “Three, if you count Carly.”

I serve on the board of Writers Forum, a writers group in Redding with very strong writers. At the Thursday night board meeting, I asked how they felt about promoting the SCBWI schmooze as many members wrote for children and I thought it would be good if Linda and I had company. They were enthusiastic about the idea of cross-pollination and about promoting writing whatever the type. So I gave them some fliers to hand out at the Saturday meeting.

On Friday Carly called from The Elegant Bean. “I have someone standing in front of me who just came over from the library. Apparently, the SCBWI schmooze was all the talk at toddler story time and there are a number of people that want to come. Do you have fliers?”

Who knew?

Next, I got an email from the RAs telling me we had 8 confirmed schmoozers. (This all before the fliers even went out at the Writers Forum meeting.) Then, in my phone call just now with Maxine she said, “At my writing group last Monday, there were five people who said they wanted to come.”

Children’s writers, they are emerging! I am thrilled to know that interest is so high and encouraged I will have new writer friends with whom to drive to the conferences in Sacramento and San Francisco. Who knows? Maybe we might even have a workshop in our own neighborhood?

And, by the way, our son will NOT be playing football.

SCBWI Schmooze: Sunday – November 15, 1:00 – 2:00
The Elegant Bean (or next door at the Eagles Nest if we’re too many)
20633 Gas Point Road
Cottonwood, CA 96022 for more info

Happy Birthday, Mom!

When we made the move north, being close to my Mom was a big consideration. An only child of a single parent, the responsibility of caring for my mom in older years falls on me. While she’s still younger, I want to soak up every opportunity to celebrate life. Our Mt. Shasta birthday get-away was one of those soaks.

We headed out early Thursday morning after school drop with four pillows and 3 bags, and several other ancillary items between us. As we drove north, the gray sky dropped rain making my mom—a bit of a back-seat driver—a little anxious on the roads. When we get in the car, we’re immediately back to 16 and 42. She likes to warn me about “the big trucks, the slippery roads, the merging lanes and whatever else she can think of” somehow not factoring in my 30 years of LA driving which I think should take me out of the “lesson” stage. Since we’ve lived apart for so long it is like losing 30 years of driving credit. Between jumps and gasps, somehow we make it up the highway to Mt. Shasta, still excited about our adventure.

As we headed to the Bed & Breakfast, called the Shasta MountINN, the mountain before us radiated, proud to be wearing her first winter snow. In Mt. Shasta, land of clean air and the best water in the world, skies were blue, temperatures crisp. Innkeeper and friend, David, greeted us and got our bags inside. His garden, breathtaking in every season, showed off her fall colors. With a bit of seasonal remorse, David had “winterized” his garden the day before, bringing in summer’s lawn furniture and getting ready for what seemed like might be a deep snow winter.

“Time for tea?” David asked.
“But of course. Time is all ours,” we said.

We sat, relaxed and talked in the lovely historical home that once belonged to Mt. Shasta’s mayor. Oh, the conversations likely to have occurred from where we sat.

Our next stop was Stewart’s Mineral Springs, a Bohemian mineral bath hangout far from the land of cell phones and flat screens. To get there, you drive past Mt. Shasta, then head out through field and farm, following a white water stream until you hit an area with a one way bridge that you are fairly sure may be facing its last car before the collapse. As you come off the bridge, you see bare butts diving into the creek which that day was 30 degrees. Brrrr. You pass a tee pee used for sweats by a local tribe. (If you’re there on sweat day, you can count on drums galore.) Finding a place to park, and getting out later involves dirt and a thirty point turn.

How to describe Stewarts? Detoxifying. People with names like “Twinkle” helping you. Wrought iron tubs with the sound of the creek coming in the window. The only wood-burning sauna west of the Mississippi that holds about 50 people, some of whom like to stand on their head naked (who does that?) Clothing-optional. Bath, sauna, shower (or creek)—repeat. Relaxing. Renewing. Unique.

After our baths, we headed over to the Spring restaurant where a lady dressed in Indian (eastern) clothes with paint on her forehead like she was celebrating Ramadan and her full abdomen exposed escorted us to a table amongst the trees and next to the creek. A beautiful day for joining nature, a dog was soon up on the deck with us. We watched as he walked in the restaurant, through the kitchen, took a jump in the creek and did the same all over again. Ahh, what different rules here in the land of the spiritual retreat.

After a delicious lunch we headed back to David’s for surprise massages, a nice follow up for two hours of bathing.

Meanwhile, Amanda had started her work day early, ended early and was attempting to time her arrival from San Francisco for dinner with us at The Trinity Café. She was Mom’s ultimate surprise. As a child, Amanda spent time with Grandma alone, but as a teen and now young adult, that time was missing in her life.

Amanda, the organized time machine that she is, arrived exactly at 5:45 when she said she would. I saw her pull in from my window upstairs, waved her up and David helped smuggle her in past Grandma’s room. It was so great to hug my first born and we were like two little kids Christmas morning, pleased with ourselves our plan had worked so well.

We snuck down to Grandma’s room. Knock, knock. “Come in,” Mom said. Amanda steps in and there is silence, followed by laughter and giggles and hugs. “This is my best surprise ever!” Grandma said.

The rest of the time was priceless. Talking, eating, cracking up at Wanda Sykes until our sides ached, eating David’s delicious eggs, veggies and potatoes with toast, walking down Mt. Shasta Boulevard and shopping, filling our jugs up with Headwater water, and just being in each other’s presence.

These are the moments that make life an e-ride and not the merry-go-round.