Kindling with the Muse

So, if my beloved Eagles can’t win, I throw my support down the PA Turnpike to the Steelers. Which means I sort of get to say “We won!” Awesome game, great-half-time (tho’ it sure looked to me like Bruce is going to be a little sore today, what with flinging himself into the stage and crashing into the camera. When he popped down on his knees in the first song, I though for sure he tore an ACL. Maybe he does yoga. Or maybe he’s in traction right now.)

We enjoyed the game in our basement, which BH has been renovating for the past year. It is becoming affectionately known as the “Man Cave”. I have lifetime privileges.

And, for the record, I did not break my thumb. More on that later.

But before we get to that, let’s back up to the Kindling Words Retreat this weekend. For those of you dropping into the Forest today for the first time (this blog is an LJ Spotlight this week – welcome, everyone!) Kindling Words is a writer’s retreat. It’s a bit different than most writer’s conferences in that the emphasis is on craft and inspiration, instead of getting published.

One of the nice things was that I did not have to give any presentations this year, so I was able to focus on my own writing and listening to the wisdom of others. The retreat started out with an evening of being creative outside the box, with the opportunity to create group poetry, group painting, and to sit in on a drumming circle and be taught by a gentleman from South Africa.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I forgot to write his name down, but he was AMAZING. That’s him with my friend Marnie Brooks, who is one of the organizers of the retreat. I was completely ready to run away and hide because the thought of having to play a drum in front of other people, was very scary. But everyone else walked in, so I screwed my courage to the sticking point, went in and picked up a djemba.

To say that I forgot my shyness and played with enthusiasm is to put it mildly. I didn’t know that I loved playing the drums because I had never played the drums before! (How many other fun things have I not yet tried that could be a blast?) Our teacher was extremely good and he led us (30 of us) in a drumming circle for about 20 minutes, then we had another brief session that night. I got in that place that I sometimes get to when I’m writing or running, when I am so deep in the experience that I lose sense of who and where I am. I am sure this looked scary to the people sitting next to me. I. Was. Gone. More on the consequences of that later.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were filled with presentations by author Nancy Werlin, artist Mary Jane Begin, and a keynote by Mr. Ashley Bryan, who is one of those people who carry themselves with such dignity, but at the same time exude such warmth, that I could not bring myself to call him Ashley all weekend. He is Mr. Bryan.

I attended a few of the presentations, but played hooky from a few more so I could concentrate on a plot knot and some extremely wrong character motivations in the book I’m working on right now. Despite the fact that my hands were sore from the drumming, I spent most of Friday and Saturday morning typing like a mad woman. More on the consequences of that later.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic But there was plenty of time for catching up with folks at meals. Where else can you breakfast with Mr. Ashley Bryan and Jane Yolen, and see over their shoulders, Gregory Maguire, and the brand-new Coretta Scott King honor book author, Hope Anita Smith?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Or lounge on a couch by the fire with Ellen Wittlinger and Sibby Falk? The number of authors there whose work I admire was staggering. You can see more pictures on Kate Messner’s LJ.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic There was an additional drumming circle, but I could not participate. In fact, by lunchtime on Saturday, I couldn’t move my thumb. (Notice swelling and bruising.) I was pretty sure that I had fractured (in a small way) a bone at the base of the thumb and had aggravated it wicked by all the frenzied typing. It didn’t seem to make much sense to go for x-rays until I was home, so I iced, iced, iced it, and put arnica on it, courtesy of Anne Sibley O’Brien.

By Sunday, the swelling started to go down and I could move it again. Crisis over. Many pages accomplished. My only regret was that the weekend had to end. Note to self: participate in drumming circles only when not on deadline!

At the traditional bonfire on Saturday night, I threw in my wishes for the next year. (It certainly worked for me in 2008!) The retreat is held in Vermont, so yes, the bonfire is built in the snow.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A bonfire in the snow is the perfect metaphor for our creative journeys; improbable, unexpected, delighful, circled by friends, kindled by the Muse.

20 Replies to “Kindling with the Muse”

  1. Pretty and awesome! Yes, I’m one of those people who added you through the spotlight today… I’ve been a fan of your books for a while now, and I’m a writer myself. It’s excellent to see you have a Livejournal!

  2. That sounds AMAZING. I’ve always wanted to go to Kindling Words, but the one year that I was all set up to do so (finance wise and time wise) was the year that I ended up adopting Scout three months earlier than expected. So then I couldn’t go. But someday … someday.

    Lara, feeling envious of your dorky enhusiasm toward the writing process (can you ever fully recapture the magic of that once you’ve lost your way?)

  3. Whoa! Your thumb was scary-looking! I remain glad that it’s not broken. And mildly envious of your drumming circle and bonfire in the snow and hanging out with so many amazing, amazing writer-folk. Some day, maybe.

  4. My mother (a librarian) and I met you a few times many years ago, back when Speak was big. I guess I should have expected you to keep writing great YA novels even after I wasn’t “YA” anymore!! I was so pleased to see your blog and can’t wait to catch up with your writing.

  5. Hi, I saw you on the spotlight. You seem like such a cool person and I can’t believe you were in the same room as GREGORY MAGUIRE!

    I just read through your journal and you are just so down-to-earth and you seem like you are a fun person to be around.

    I am an author too, my second book is at the printer and I am almost done with my third book. These are research topic books, though, and I want to start with fiction, which brings me to why I’m leaving ya a comment…

    I also like YA fiction, and I am wondering who your agent is? I am not ready to submit queries yet but I feel it is necessary to get ahead as much as you can!

    I hope to hear from you, if you like can you email me:

  6. Congrats on the feature! You’re having a banner 2009 already. I do something like the bonfire, except I throw my wishes off a pier into the water…I guess it’s more the process of letting go and letting things happen huh?

  7. oh dear, if your hand looked like that, you were hitting the drum wrong. Wrong angle entirely – you can drum for hours and hours and do all night drum circles with yours hands too sore to hold a steering wheel, and still not have your hand look like that.

    But at least you didn’t break it =-). Take a drive about oh, an hour or so down the road. I can introduce you to someone who makes african handdrums by hand – and teach you make sure your hand doesn’t look that way again *grin*

  8. My dad spends most of his time in the basement and I’ve always called it the Man Cave, though probably not affectionately, haha.

  9. Yeah, I kind of figured I was doing it wrong!

    I’d love any recommendations! Email them to laurie AT writerlady DOT com. Thank you!

  10. My agent isn’t accepting new clients right now. I’m sorry. Your best bet is to join SCBWI ( and take advantage of the wonderful resources they offer.

  11. Hi there, I was just wondering, are the ARCs availabe to residents of Canada as well, or no?

  12. I’m going through your posts right now, but I just want to say that Fever 1793 was one of my favorite stories when I was little and you visited the school a kid I tutor goes to a few months ago and I was/am extremely jealous. I kinda want to confirm I’m a human being and all that, and an aspiring writer!, who is patiently waiting for your new novel and loving the little insights to your life you give on LJ <3333


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