I've just returned from Picture Book Boot Camp with legendary children's author Jane Yolen. A four-day jam-packed immersive weekend with eight other published picture book authors. Jane and her daughter, author Heidi Stemple, hosted the intensive at Jane's sprawling farmhouse in Western MA.
How to capture the essence of this experience? Some things I will never forget:
- The caliber of our critique group conversations each night
- Walls and walls and walls of artwork and illustration; shelves and shelves and shelves of books
- How much I learned about craft, perspective, tenacity, and the business of writing for children
- How, even after you've published 350+ books like Jane has, there are still new stories to tell
- Owling with Heidi: how chatty we all were on the way to the field; how we held our breath as we listened for owls; how beautiful their sound was against the bright moon; how we rode home in contented silence
- Heidi's cooking, every single last bite, but especially those chocolate chip cookies
- Sitting crosslegged on a couch in Jane's attic office late-night with new friends, taking turns reading our works in progress
- That filled-up feeling of saturation, inspiration, determination and gratitude
- Jane, over breakfast, saying to all of us: "You are family now"