Monthly Archives: October 2015

October Travels, Part One: Woodstock, Vermont

D. and I spent most of October traveling, and we’re back in Tacoma now, enjoying a rainy Halloween day. I find travel exhilarating, exhausting, fun, frustrating, and very educational. Packing for nearly a month away in three different climates was confounding, and I ended up hauling a fifty-pound suitcase up four flights of stairs in Madrid—but I’ll leave that bit of fun for part two. I hope that spending nearly a month away from my computer has helped stoke my writing batteries, since National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow.

Our first stop was Woodstock, Vermont, home of D’s oldest brother and his lovely wife. What a beautiful village! We weren’t the only ones to think so; the autumn foliage was in its full glory, and the streets around the village commons were thickly clogged with “leafers,” as the locals call them. The commons is surrounded by picturesque buildings, such as the library where K. works as director of the board.

Woodstock library

And here’s the town hall, I believe. (Forgive me if I got that wrong, S. & K.)

Woodstock City Hall

On the second day of our visit, some local kids and their parents were constructing a family of pumpkin-headed scarecrows outside the library.

Woodstock Scarecrows

Of course, there are lovely covered bridges

Woodstock covered bridge

and historic cemeteries.

Woodstock cemetary

But here’s what it’s really all about in October:

Woodstock leaves

S. and K. are very knowledgeable about local history, and they took us to visit the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge, in the tiny town of Plymouth Notch, Vermont.

Coolidge Home

The interior of the town’s chapel was particularly lovely, constructed of simple wooden panels arranged in geometric patterns.

Chapel at Plymouth Notch, Vermont

After a lunch of grilled Vermont-cheddar sandwiches, we finished our tour.

Long barn in Plymouth Notch, Vermont

Coolidge Tomb

I hadn’t realized what a handsome devil Coolidge was, and how beautiful his wife Grace was. Alas, I wasn’t able to photograph the museum’s collection of her 1920s gowns; you just don’t see artistry like that in modern fashions. Apparently, the President liked to choose his wife’s outfits and took great pride in her reputation as a fashion icon.

Another lovely place we visited was the artists’ colony in Cornish, New Hampshire, founded by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907). He started out as a cameo-carver’s apprentice, and created such famous works as the “Standing Lincoln” and the Shaw Memorial. You may be familiar with the latter from the 1989 Civil War movie Glory.

Home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Cornish, NH.

Home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Cornish, NH.

View from porch of Saint-Gaudens' home.

View from porch of Saint-Gaudens’ home.

Bas relief sculpture entitled Amor Caritas.

Bas relief sculpture entitled Amor Caritas.

Shaw Memorial

Shaw Memorial

Detail, Shaw Memorial

Detail, Shaw Memorial

We were sorry to leave such good company in such a lovely place, but after four days it was time to begin the second leg of our journey—in Spain.

Write on the Sound 2015

Write on the Sound

I had the great good fortune to attend the Friday and Saturday sessions of the Write on the Sound writers’ conference in Edmonds, Washington, this weekend. The conference was held in the Frances Anderson Center, a converted school building that now serves as a community center. From the generous deck area we had a lovely view of the Sound and, on Saturday, of a sailboat race. I’d never been to Edmonds, but will return soon to explore the many artistic shops and restaurants down near the waterfront. What a cute town!

This was only my second writers’ conference; my first, in Seattle last February, was an event for new writers sponsored by Writers’ Digest, and was mind-blowingly informative. Write on the Sound does not offer pitch sessions with agents, focusing instead on the craft of writing. There were many interesting topics to choose from, and I only had one clunker. I paid $180 for six sessions of instruction over two days, so I feel that I got a pretty good value for my money.

The highlight for me was Eric Witchey’s half-day session on emotion-driven fiction. He taught this high-energy class with lots of group interaction and humor, and I left with many pages of notes and a thick packet of materials. His techniques would enrich the writing arsenal of any fiction writer, so do take one of his classes if you ever get the chance.

I also greatly enjoyed a session that was actually not my first choice for that time slot: a discussion of the many freelance helpers a writer might hire: publicist, lawyer, editor, website designer, social media consultant, etc. This class was taught by  YA author Lin Kaymer and her publicist/editor Alice B. Acheson. These ladies really know their stuff and adroitly fielded questions from writers of all sorts. Excellent session!

I won’t tell you much about the clunker—I addressed that on my evaluation form. Let’s just say that this presenter didn’t seem to know much more than I do about her topic, and I’m a relative beginner, though I have made a point of reading everything I can find on this topic.

The chance to meet other writers and chat about their writing projects is what I especially enjoy about conferences like these. I met writers of memoir, short stories, science fiction, YA fiction, romance, crime fiction, historical fiction and nonfiction, and more. Especially lively was the discussion in my last session, a class on mystery/detective fiction basics. We crime fiction fans can be quite rabid in our enthusiasm. I now have a wonderful reading list to keep me warm throughout the long, dark winter. What’s better than a juicy murder story on a gloomy day?

The Pacific Northwest is fertile ground for writers’ conferences; I’m already signed up for Write in the Harbor, a smaller conference held in Gig Harbor on November 6 and 7. Just the thing to kick of National Novel Writing Month.

Write on!