It’s hard to believe it has taken me this long to get back to sharing about my time at Highlights Chautauqua 2011. There were so many “ah ha” moments in the lectures I attended, breakout workshops, the 1:1 mentoring, and talking with other conferees and faculty informally which happened frequently.
The things that I learned or lifted to a new level were all very personal to my writing and illustration, and my beliefs about publishing. Daily walking of the streets where other authors and notable writers, artists, musicians, and thespians had walked before me infused a deepened passion and commitment to my creativity. As I walked away from Chautauqua, clarity about why I write and illustrate for children had been significantly heightened and the bar elevated higher.
So how did this all occur seven days? First, there was magic. It runs thick at Chautauqua where creativity, knowledge, and wisdom abound in the souls living there or passing through or teaching, or including those who have been Chautauquans in the past. It is infused in the energy of the grounds and inhabitants. You cannot escape it. Kim Griswell referred to Chautauqua as a cauldron in her closing speech. She captured the essence of the transformation we went through during the week with such eloquence. We truly were boiled in a pot with the precise ingredients simmering in our blood to generate success.
|Another Chautauqua Sunrise|
Second, there was inspiration. Each faculty members’ story sprang from their writing careers. Every story was unique as the individual standing before us. What voices these authors came across with as they shared their authentic authority. What was not unique was the passion, commitment, intelligence, risk-taking, and “going to the well” or writing from the heart that were common threads. Pure inspiration. Joy Cowley continued to remind us “all writers begin at the same place” and our job was to walk away from the week being our own best editors, knowing our voice. She went on to later say that writing for children is like a prayer without the religion. It’s spiritual. Joy ended here informal talk with a blessing. “May the fire of divine creation consume you and make you its’ co-creator.”
Third there was the abundance of giving. The willingness coupled with the openness of the faculty, the staff, and the conferees to be of service in any way asked for or needed was beyond words. Thank you and your welcome were said multiple times an hour. It was not hard to say thank you but for me, it seemed an insufficient phrase for the level of genuine caring, knowledge, wisdom, and service that was freely given. It felt like when I was a child and someone picked me up and placed me on their shoulders to see a parade or fireworks. The abundance of giving lifted us up and the parade and fireworks were stantastic. (Stantastic is my synonym for fantastic. Having a moment that is like my dog enjoys life is stantastic. It does not get any better.)
Diane & Her Stantastic Mentor, Candy Fleming
|The Serenading Brown Brothers; Kent, Gary, & David|