Posted by: jeannineatkins | June 5, 2009

Pulling Ourselves Up

Jessie Haas invited me to a mini-conference she organized with her critique group and a few others. Some have published, some not yet, and the group of about twelve includes some who work as teachers and librarians. We’ll meet in the library of an elementary school in Brattleboro, Vermont, about an hour north of my house. The goal is share strategies for surviving tough times in publishing and to leave inspired. “If we have to get through a lot of swearing, whining and complaining to do that, then that’s what we’ll do,” Jessie, a practical person, wrote.

Here’s what will go into my car as I get ready to leave early tomorrow morning:

1. A list of questions to start off discussion about school visits, self publishing, MFA programs, and our stories of struggles and joys.

2. Some writing and query letters some of the group sent for critique.

3. A bag of publisher’s catalogues I picked up at the NESCBWI conference to share.

4. By way of introductions, we were asked to bring anything we’ve published and also to read “a brief piece we’ve written and something we wish we’d written” I’m going to bring a few poems from my upcoming collection and thought I’d bring “Love That Dog” by Sharon Creech, but the small yellow book seems either to have been temporarily swallowed up by my bookshelves or lent and unreturned. My hand went to Melissa Sweet’s “Carmine: A Little More Red,” which is clever and eye-opening, but that choice still could change.

5. We’re having a potluck lunch at the school, which is giving us access to computers, printers, and a copy machine, then late in the afternoon going to someone’s house for wine and cheese. I’m bringing a big salad, but yesterday strawberries appeared at farm stands in town. So I might need to bring some of those, too.

6. Directions. I hope Brattleboro’s annual Heifer Parade (we’re talking cows in the street), also tomorrow, doesn’t run by the school.

I think it’s cool that this critique group set aside a day for sharing and generating positive ideas about sustaining life as a writer, and it seems like something anyone anywhere might get going. I’ll report on the day early next week!



  1. Sounds wonderful! Enjoy!
    And I don’t know, I think it would be nice to see the Heifer Parade. 🙂

  2. Sounds like a wonderful idea. 🙂

  3. I will enjoy.
    And I’d be happy to see the cows if they pass by the school. What I’m afraid of is cows congregating before, and me behind the steering wheel waiting to get to writers. Or getting lost on some detour, getting sucked toward Canada.
    have a good weekend!

  4. Yes, think it’s sort of built on the premise that sometimes at a conference we take more from those conversations in the halls — but with some structure built in, too.

  5. Sounds like a fantastic day! Hope you have a productive day.
    By the way, if you have fresh spinach, you can make a delicious salad by adding cut-up strawberries, feta cheese (or favorite cheese), and a raspberry dressing.
    Have a great weekend!

  6. Oh, dear. This salad sounds so much better than mine! My hand hovered over the spinach yesterday, but I opted for other greens. And then I raspberry dressing might be beyond my skills, or at least … what I have on hand.
    At least the berries are amazing — I just picked up a quart. So hopefully they’ll hold their own as is (and now, of course, I’m dreaming about whipped cream… I’d like to think we’re not so all about the food, but I’m afraid that’s as much a fantasy as the Dream Salad.
    Next time I’d better consult you before I shop! And thanks for the good wishes, Vivian! I am preparing some sugar-and-spice nuts, so hope that makes the salad less pedestrian.

  7. Thanks for clarifying the Heifer Parade situation. *grins*

  8. Sounds like a good weekend ahead, heifers notwithstanding! And very well planned to boot, from whining to wine and cheese. Can’t wait to hear your report!

  9. I think this is a wonderful idea, and I love her realization that there may be a bit of stress to get out before the practicalities and optimism! Have a great day.

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