Laura, my sister-in-law, author of Strands of Gold and another, almost-published, book, offered to host everyone for a potluck dinner on a Monday evening.
Tuesday was the deadline for my Letter from Harrisburg column, so I decided I'd spend the day writing on Monday--since I always wait until the last minute--and reward myself with an evening with fellow writers.
Monday morning I found out Laura was sick with the unspeakable stomach flu that hit her whole family, one by one.
I knew I should offer to host. So I did.
Monday morning I started working on the column.
By noon I was feeling like I might be getting Laura's flu, so I went to bed and slept for a couple of hours and got up feeling mercifully better.
Too many fresh blackberries, maybe.
I swept floors and set up tables on the porch and moved sprinklers and cleaned the bathroom. Amy made chickenetti and a blackberry coffee cake.
I knew that about seven writer ladies had been invited, but I had no idea how many husbands and children would come.
Vacation Bible School started that evening. Paul, Amy, and Emily, who were all teaching, and Jenny, who was a student, rushed out the door just as the first guests arrived.
Carol (author of Because They Cared) and her husband Amos from Wisconsin arrived, along with a granddaughter. Sharilyn (The Night the Angel Came; The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) and her husband James and their five children plus a niece. Yvonne (Budget scribe and Sunday school papers) and Henry from Harrisburg.
They all brought food.
I put Sharilyn's daughters to work setting more plates on the table and putting ice in the glasses.
Jon (Bible study on Joseph) and Jane (children's book and Sunday school papers) and their three children came. Luci (young adult novel in progress) from Wisconsin. Ted and Mary (devotionals, Brownsville Times articles, science textbook). Aunt Orpha (CLE curriculum in Spanish) from down the road.
Some 25 people in all. We all missed Laura and her family.
Jon brought out lawn chairs and folding chairs and turned off the sprinklers I'd forgotten. With loaded plates we jostled around each other on the crowded porch. We displayed our books on a table off to the side.
And we talked. Authors are intense talkers, I've found. We talked about publishers and conferences, about high numbers and low numbers, about editors and authors. About works in progress and self publishing, about Good Books and CLP and Carlisle Press and CAM's publishing arm, whatever it's called. About e-books and a Baptist printer in Canada who did Jane's wonderful children's book under the single condition that the Bible verses be in KJV.
Luci wondered about submitting her novel to "XYZ." So of course I had to tell about two authors I know who were reduced to tears by XYZ's editors who completely destroyed their voices. But have things changed in the last ten years? Carol and Sharilyn said yes. Their editors at XYZ were wonderful; their stories retained their own flavor. I was very happy to hear that.
We bought and signed each other's books, and Mary handed out postcards about the Oregon Christian Writers conference next week.
And we talked about the Writers Workshops by Mail that were started by Verda Glick, and which groups we were in, and who was in them with us. Verda has been a Beachy-Amish missionary in El Salvador for many years, and nobody has done as much to inspire Amish and conservative Mennonite writers as Verda Glick. Years ago she started a "workshop-by-mail," a group of half a dozen writers who sent their work in a big envelope from one member to the next, adding their critiques to the others' work and including a new piece of their own with each round.
That group grew too large and another was begun, and another and another. I don't know how many groups have been formed or how many people have been part of them, but it's a lot, and Verda added her gentle but insightful voice to each of them. I was part of two groups about 15 years ago and dropped out, regretfully, when I began writing for the newspaper, because one deadline was all I could handle.
I believe all but one of our group is, or has been, in one of Verda's Writers Workshops. God bless her.
We took a group picture and kept talking and finally people left before we felt finished. Let's do this next year. Yes. Let's.
|Me, Sharilyn Martin, Orpha Smucker, Carol Kauffman, Melodi Martin, Mary Hake, Yvonne Bender, Luci Miller, Jane Kropf|
And then I went back to my computer and worked on my column for another hour, pulling word after reluctant word out of my brain, down through my arms, and into the keyboard. This morning I finished and sent it off, barely making the deadline, like always.