The Odds Against Us

…the odds against us are endless,

Credit: jppi | morguefile.com

our chances of being alive together
statistically nonexistent;
still we have made it, alive in a time
when rationalists in square hats
and hatless Jehovah’s Witnesses
agree that it is almost over,
alive with our lively children
who – but for endless if’s –
might have missed out on being alive
together with marvels and follies
and longings and lies and wishes
and error and humor and mercy
and journeys and voices and faces
and colors and summers and mornings
and knowledge and tears and chance.

 –  Lisel Mueller

LoonSong, Once Again

“Magical!”  It’s what the participants said last fall about the first ever LoonSong Writers’ Retreat set in the stunning wilderness of northern Minnesota.

“The best writing retreat I’ve ever been on!”

“Intimate and yet expansive.”

“My soul sings.”

And it’s going to happen once again, September 7th through the 11th,  2017.  Faculty—and oh, what a faculty!—and participants will gather on the shores of pristine Elbow Lake, so far north in Minnesota as to almost be in Canada, for stimulating lectures and panel discussions, writing prompts and workshops, readings and one-one-one agent, editor and marketing consultations.

Last year the retreat filled early.  This year more than half the spots were gobbled up in the first hours registration was open.  But there are still places.  If you are a children’s or young-adult writer at any stage of your career, just-beginning or been-going-for-a-long-time-and-in-need-of-rejuvenation, this retreat is for you.

We writers work in such deep isolation, we need one another.  Here’s your opportunity to learn, to refresh, to make connections, to get fired up again.

The 2017 faculty?  M.T. Anderson, Gary Schmidt, Eric Rohmann, Candace Fleming.  Can you think of a more stellar cast?  Faye Bender from The Book Group will be there as agent. Jordan Brown, Executive Editor with Walden Pond Press and Balzer+Bray at HarperCollins Children’s Books will be our editor. Vicki and Steve Palmquist of Winding Oak will offer advice as marketing consultants.  And more.

Elbow Lake Lodge Credit: Loonsong.org

Elbow Lake Lodge where we meet is rustic, comfortable, beautiful.  The food, served by the Ojibway Tribe, is outstanding.  Besides time to write, to share, to listen there will be opportunity for kayaking, paddle boat rides, bonfires.  You can even swim if you are the hearty sort!

You can fly either into Duluth or into Minneapolis/St. Paul and there are multiple ways—including a shuttle provided by LoonSong—to reach the resort from there.

This retreat is the dream child of Debby Dahl Edwardson, graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts, author of many highly regard books and finalist for the National Book Award.  Growing up, Debby spent her summers on Elbow Lake, and the place inspires her still.  She has always wanted to bring other writers here to share the inspiration, and after a lot of dreaming—and a lot of work—LoonSong is it.

LoonSong is sponsored by Vermont College of Fine Arts, and if you’re interested, you’ll have an opportunity to learn about VCFA’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, the first program of its kind and the most highly regarded in the country.

But LoonSong isn’t just an introduction to another program.  It is its own place, its own opportunity, its own magic.  Check us out.  You’ll love every minute, and you’ll return home filled to the brim!

Credit: Edwardson | Loonsong.org

All the information you need is available at www.loonsong.org.

I’ll be there, too.  I hope to see you!

The Flame Within Us

Credit: JulesInKY | morguefile.com

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

Albert Schweitzer

Beginnings

It’s the time of year to think about beginnings.  And endings.

We on this globe—at least those who live some distance from the unchanging belt around the middle—live in a world of constant beginnings and endings.  The snow blesses then gives way to flowers.  The leaves unfurl then tumble into dust.  The sun rises then withdraws its bounty.

Credit: Koan | morguefile.com

The essence of our Earth is change, a world constantly remaking itself in earthquake and volcano, in fire and flood, in life evolved and life eradicated.  Even the seeming constant stars die, and planets are born in their fiery deaths.  In the midst of this birthing and dying of everything we know, you and I enter, breathe for a brief patch, and are gone.

And while we are breathing we keep starting over.  And over.  And over.

There was a time when I thought my life was meant to be a straight line toward some distinct and thoroughly desirable goal.  What goal I didn’t know, but I was certain I would arrive there.  Otherwise, what was the point?

Today I look back across nearly eight decades and find a different truth.    My life has been—still is—crammed with discovery, with dreams, with joy more sweet than anything I’d ever been told I deserved.  It has also been littered with missteps, mischance, misperceptions, misunderstandings, mischoices.  Perhaps that dichotomy shapes every life, but certainly it shapes of mine.

To my own credit I can say that I have learned along the way.  Not everything.  Perhaps not even enough.  But the learning goes on, even in age.

Now, already deep into a century I found unimaginable when I was a child, I stand at the threshold of another New Year starting over once more.  Not just nodding to an artificially declared holiday but truly starting over.  So much in my life is new, is being done over, tried again.

New work.  Work I have never dared attempt before.  Hard work, even harrowing sometimes, but good, so good.  Will it find a place in the world out there?  I have no way of knowing, but it calls and I tiptoe after.

New understanding.  So much I thought I knew seems unimportant from the vantage point of age.  So much I understood has been proven wrong.  Or if it isn’t wrong, it has moved on to become something I can no longer fathom.  What to do in the face of my ignorance?  The only answer seems to be declare my incompetence and open myself to discovery.

New peace.  Not the kind of peace from which the chaos of the world doesn’t matter, but a struggling peace, one that seeks openness before the intractable, quiet in the midst of noise, caring against a world of indifference.

And love.  A new love.  Sweetest of all, this new love.

What have I learned as I start over once more after so many other startings?  One thing that I can name.

I eschew regret.

My mistakes have formed me as deeply—perhaps even more deeply—than my gifts.  And here I come carrying it all, mistakes and gifts together, into another day.  Another precious day.

What can I possibly do but rejoice?

Credit: alexfrance | morguefile.com

The One Hidden Story

kitchen-table-wisdomHidden in all stories is the One story. The more we listen, the clearer that [universal] Story becomes. Our true identity, who we are, why we are here, what sustains us, is in this story.  The stories at every kitchen table are about the same things, stories of owning, having and losing, stories of sex, of power, of pain, of wounding, of courage, hope and healing, of loneliness and the end of loneliness. Stories about God.  In telling them, we are telling each other the human story.

                                                     

       Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom