I'm not new to talking, sharing ideas, or stating my opinion, especially stating my opinion! After all, I taught elementary school for 30 years! However, my audience has typically been smaller,just family, the classroom, or just talking to myself!

My blog has two goals: be an outlet for sharing thoughts on writing children's books and the path to publication (got my fingers crossed that I'll get there) and a place to chronicle my journey of losing my sight. Sometimes I imagine these two paths will overlap .

Friday, October 29, 2010

Write From the Soul

       Have you ever gone on a trip and found that it far exceeded your expectations?

       Then you'll understand when I say that my journey to Charleston, SC  last weekend to research and talk with family and friends of the late Philip Simmons (my picture book subject) was extraordinary.

I had several interviews prearranged, but the individuals I hoped to speak with were more of the if-I-have-time-I'll-meet-you or-catch-them-on-the-run variety.

They all had time.

I caught all of them on the run.

And everyone was gracious, and open, and willing to share their memories and stories with me.

Now I feel like I have a complete understanding of this wonderful and beloved man.

He was:
an observer,
a giver to all,
a cornerstone of his church and his community,
adored all children,
a man who appreciated everything in life,
and proud of his skills and craft.

I'm totally loving the writing of this manuscript! After my eye-opening Charleston trip, I have completely revamped the book. Now it feels genuine to me.

And I thank everyone (especially Rossie, Mrs. Gilliam, Ron, and Ronnie) in Charleston, including the people we met on the street who claimed Philip Simmons as a cousin, for making me feel a part of his incredible life journey.

And a special thank you to my good friend Laura who willingly drove me to Charleston with no agenda other than helping me take pictures and notes on every conversation.
Love you all!

Here's a picture of just one of Philip Simmons's gates called "The Olympic Gate." It's located in The Atlanta History Center, Shaping Traditions: Folk Arts in a Changing South exhibition.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Write From the Soul

      Life has been hectic. Last Thursday I left with a carload of women writers to drive to Birmingham, AL for the regional SCBWI Fall conference. The other 3 women were all signed up for a day long writers' Intensive on Friday by the keynote speaker, Darcy Pattison. I didn't sign up for the workshop but since I'm no longer a driver, I take rides where I can find them. I was sharing a room with one of my other delightful writer friends, Doraine Bennett- who was also going to the writers' Intensive. So what, pray tell, did I do on that free Friday?

I sat out on the deck of the hotel and wrote. 

Then, I went to the movies. I rarely buy food at the movies but the smell of the popcorn grabbed me and wouldn't let go, so I caved and bought some. And of course, you can't eat popcorn without something to drink. Ten dollars later (yikes!) I was ready for the movie.

BUT........ I needed to carry popcorn and a drink with only one hand. Why you ask? Because the other hand was sweeping in front of me with the white cane I now use. A dilemma, indeed.

I went over to one of the theater staff (they all look like they're about 15 years old, don't they?) and asked for some help. A very nice young man graciously offered to carry both drink and corn for me. Walking down the hall, I commented on how dark the hallways were for people with vision issues. He said he'd tell the manager. At the theater door, he asked where I wanted to sit. When I explained I needed to sit in the very back, in order to see the entire screen, he suggested we take the elevator to the top floor and not walk up all the stadium seating rows. I hope he said that because of the vision, not because he thought I was too old to walk the steps!

Did you know there were elevators in movie theaters???? I didn't. 

Once in the theater, it was very dark so he helped me find the row and seat. I thanked him and he left. As I removed my sweater and visor, I made a discovery. I was still wearing my clip-on sunglasses!!!! No wonder the hallways and theater seemed so dark. (Geez, feel much like a dummy, Gail?) But what a polite young man not to mention the sunglasses to me :-)

Saturday was the conference day - one keynote speech, 4 break-out sessions previously chosen when we registered, lunch, panel Q & A on publishing, writing, querying, and autographing books purchased there by the conference speakers. We fit all that in between 8AM and 4 PM. Oh, and I had a professional critique on my MG book. This was all followed by a 3 hour ride back to Atlanta with a different driver and friend, Cathy Hall. 

We had lots to talk about while the beneficent Mr. Hall drove. (Hey, that's what Cathy likes to call him so who am I to argue!) You see, there's a writing contest prior to the fall and spring conferences. Winners are announced (surprise) at the conference itself. And...... Cathy won 1st place in MG and YA fiction! Woo Hoo! Very exciting. Not only did she win free tuition to the next conference and a free night at the hotel, she also was invited by the senior editor who read all the entries, to submit the complete manuscript for consideration. How awesome is that! You go Cathy!!

The rest of the hecticness- is that even a word?- finishes this weekend.

I'm off to Charleston for 4 days. I'm interviewing friends and family members of a wonderful, gentle-spirited man who was a blacksmith and artisan. I'm writing a picture book about him. Many of the wrought-iron gates, fences, railings, and grills made in Charleston were made by him. I plan to go around the town and photograph them.

Who says retirees are sedentary?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Write From the Soul

 A "Peach" of an Idea

             This week a wonderful book went on sale! It's The 12 Days of Christmas in Georgia by Susan R. Spain with illustrations by Elizabeth O. Dulemba. Both of these women live in our Southern Breeze region (Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia) and are fabulous people!! For those of you love to share different versions of a story or song, this book is for you! Read it to your kids, your grand-kids, your nieces and nephews, your class, a neighbor's kid, or any other kid you find (just don't stalk them...it's kinda creepy).

For those of you who love to share nonfiction with kids, try   Rosa's Bus. The Ride to Civil Rights by Jo S. Kittinger and illustrations by Steven Walker, another wonderful person from our Southern Breeze region. She tells the story of the bus boycott of more than a year in Montgomery, AL and the resulting Civil Rights movement.  The best part of the book? It's about the bus and it's journey.

These are great books to buy..... and maybe next year (or the year after that)  one of my books will be available to buy as well. (fingers and toes crossed)