This year, 2019, I retired from my job as a workshop leader at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. I miss my writers! I learned about teaching from some of the best, beginning with Steven Lewis. In 1998 he was my undergrad mentor at Empire State College. I was trying to write a picture storybook about a girl and her pet iguana and he drew a line under one sentence and said, “That is a good sentence.”
In the MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College my mentors were Jane Resh Thomas, Phyllis Root, Carolyn Coman, and Norma Fox Mazer. I remember things they said to me, and wrote on my pages and I would pass these gems along to my writers. I learned from my editor as well, not only from his editorial letters, but from being a teaching assistant in his workshops. When it came to writing and teaching, what he didn’t say was as powerful as what he did say. Because somewhere deep inside, writers know what we need to do. We need good readers, and the right editors to ask the clarifying questions. So with the right guidance –and loads of patience and reassurance—plus the keenest insights into what our stories are really about, a few good books come and the writing gets better.
This is where I used to write, in a dormer of the barn. I could see into the woods out that window. Ava still basks there under the lights, but now she and Emo make faces at each other, because Emo has his corral where my desk used to be.
Now, my desk is in Che's room and he is my Office Buddy. His room is also a bathroom, which has a door that I can shut!
This is Ava on the deck. She weighs almost 20 pounds. Hasn't she got the best nose horns!