Riding high in Virgina City

Yes, yes I can never resist a good pun. This weekend ... NV SCBWI mentor programme and conference in Virgina City. I have been looking forward to getting here, and it is so much more than I hoped for. First ... the location. Never dreamed I would be out in the Wild West. And Virginia City has more than enough charm and authenticity left. It's a little rough a round the edges, but so much the better. It was worth the 3 plane hop to get here. It was even worth the anti-English abuse from a lady of the 'Southern' persuasion, who informed me on the plane in Los Angeles that 'You will find in THIS country we do things a little differently', (This because I was already in the aisle of the plane disembarking, and hadn't immediately thrown a cloak in front of me so she could join the queue. Not at all sure why she chose to berate me in particular when about 1,000 Americans had already walked past her. Perhaps a grudge from the revolutionary war?)

This is a special weekend, and one I will remember for a long time during the cold winter months to come in Maine. On Friday the group of 30 mentees gathered in an historic old hospital, (now an arts center) and met with our mentors. Great energy ... laughter, sharing, it is totally like coming home. The faculty is wonderful - Harold Underdown, Priscilla Burris, Emma Dryden, Terri Sloat, Emma Hopkins, amongst others.

Such fun to just sit at the big old kitchen table and chat with aspiring and published authors and those with such a knowledge of children's books. For me this feels like a home coming. I have been to several conferences this year, and all have been inspiring. But this is truely like being with family and I know that there will be friendships forged here that will last for a lifetime.

The city wraps you up in it's old charm, and good humor prevails. In between meetings and lectures we have wandered up and down the wooden-sidewalked streets, giggled at the shop window displays, popped into bars that have seen gunfights and bawdy dancing (but none of that this weekend right!) ambled around the tombstones in the cemetery on the top of a hill, gazed over the ranges of sienna frosted mountains into the aquamarine distance. We have considered our dreams and desires for the future. In the morning the sun shoots up surprised and blazing and pierces the soul. It feels good to be alive and part of something that takes no account of money or position.

Today the conference begins proper with workshops and so forth. Portfolio showcase this afternoon, and tonight an evening of reading and music. After the last few weeks with nose to the grindstone it's nice to relax, be away from the computer and have a real good laugh!

Yesterday I had my first mentor session with Priscilla Burris. Really helpful. She is very intuitive and I feel she really understands were I am at right now. It is so amazing to have someone to talk to about all the niggly questions and fears.  My main question at the moment was whether it is timely for me to seek an agent. With everything that I have going on right now, and after discussion, that's going to be my main goal when I get back to real life. Exciting!!

Also an informative and validating portfolio review with Terri Sloat. I put the pieces I most like in my portfolio and I think it showed. So I felt really validated with her critique and ready to stop worrying about my style amd have more confidence. I am going in the right direction. Just what I needed. Sometimes you just need to hear it from the mouths of others! Also great advice was to give myself a 'retreat' occasionally and create art just for me with no purpose other than exploration and to feed my soul. Thanks to both Priscilla and Terri.

So there we are, it's all about feeding the soul. Otherwise we all whither inside.

Did I tell you my good news? Email last week with the offer of a book to illustrate for a Boston publisher. Whee!! I am excited about this one. Thank you Face Book, as this is where they found me. More information on this soon, the deal ain't done yet, so don't want to jinx it.

Corrections are back on my other project, so as soon as I get back to Maine I will be into the next round on that.

No piccies this week, as blogging on my cutesy little notebook. I WILL try and do some sketches of the hills and post them later.

Brekky time! Have a great, peaceful, awe-inspiring weekend where ever you are and what ever you are doing.

Toodle pip
aka the Wacky Brit.