Thursday, October 05, 2006


I'm slowly recovering from my Patricia Lee Gauch marathon day. SCBWI Western Washington offered a one day writer's workshop here in Seattle with Patti teaching.

In case you didn't know, Patricia Lee Gauch is the vice president and editor-at-large of Philomel Books. She is the editor of so many wondrous books, but my particular favorites include T.A. Barron's Merlin series, Brian Jacques's Redwall series, Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, it goes on. Oh, Patti is the author of almost 40 books too. OK, you get it, she's awesome.

One fun highlight of this day was her threatening to lock us in a room for a week with no permission to leave unless we find our own original voice. The whole day was like a time warp for me, hours passed, but it seemed like minutes. I love listening to her take on writing. I could feel the cobwebs in the unused gray matter of my brain being swept away. Ooh, I always get shivers up my back when someone says know yourself. It's a scary thought. Who are you? Then comes the idea that answering this question is paramount if you want to actually ever say something. I also liked the idea of being gritty. I learned this lesson from Rembrandt, too. In his art, it is the inclusion of every day elements, this fascination with the imperfect, the juxtaposition of light and dark that reveals the "soul" within. The idea that books have soul is very provocative to me. I am so comfortable with the realm of the imaginary. Thought cannot be quantified. You can't measure it, you can't put it in bottle, there is no code for it, no spectral analysis, and yet, the evidence of it is everywhere, books for one.

The last bit, I want to touch on is the idea of sassy characters. Patti shared the heart of what a powerful character is, and I think I get it. For me this is almost a spiritual exchange, like focusing on the miracle of taking your next breath. You stop all you thoughts, and for a moment appreciate the fact that you are alive, that your lungs faithfully inhale and exhale. The best characters are unaffected, sublime and yet thoroughly human. She pointed out conversation is a key to authentic characters. I got the idea that we should slip into our characters, not just into the skin, but into the bones and marrow, and the psyche, and right into their souls. Maybe this is strange; the story of the Velveteen Rabbit came to me. This was a real rabbit, not a stuffed bunny. It was made real by love and a fairy. Perhaps we need to come in with our fairy powers, shake some dust and reveal to all, that this imagined friend is so much more than sawdust and velveteen.

Oh, I feel the warmth of love curling in and surrounding, like incense thick and heavy on a Sunday morning during worship at church. I could go on all day like this. Patti is really a treasure when it comes to the world of children's books. I want the blessing of her thoughts to work like leaven in my writing. I hope some of that leaven spreads to you here.

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