Writer's retreat, another illustrator at work

I'm just back from a week away at a writer's retreat. We're a small group -- this time there were six of us. Anna Grossnickle Hines, Gary Hines, Patricia Wittman, Tom Birdseye, Suzanne Johnson, and me. We write in the mornings, write again after lunch, take a long walk, then dinner and critiquing or a movie. Lots of laughing and chocolate eating are an important part of the week, of course! We keep the costs down by meeting at Anna and Gary's house in the Mendocino woods. We take turns cooking, then Patty (dubbed Dr. Stretchology for her incredible way with leftovers), orchestrates whatever remains in the fridge into a gourmet feast.

Anna Grossnickle Hines was finishing up some art work, caught on camera by her husband Gary. We had a extra raucously celebratory night when the first review of her new book came in. Starred review for 1,2, buckle My Shoe! Time for more chocolate for everyone! Here's Anna's story of how she put together her book. (Note especially the adorable Violet!)

And a terrific shout-out for Buckle My Shoe (with great images of the interior) on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. And to read how Jules and Eisha came up with their great blog name, check them out right here. Yes, related to the clever White Queen.

I laid out my roughy-toughy pre-first draft on my clean desk and tried to make sense of what I am doing. Standing back to look at the big picture is always really hard for me. It looks so neat and organized all laid out like this, doesn't it? I brought to the group after dinner one night, laid it on on the dining room table and told them the whole story. They listened, questioned, made lots of positive noises, then put the blender on frappe and came up with suggestions -- lots of them -- about how to make it better.

No picture of me sitting in bed the next morning, tea mug in hand, dazed look, mind buzzing with ideas. I'd written myself into some kind of corner, attached to everything I'd already done (if it worked or not!) and now my imagination has been set free to roam in new ways through the manuscript.

Thanks to all for a lovely week, and the thoughtful suggestions.