All Eyes On Me #2 (Rosemont Writer’s Retreat Recap)

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Well I’m back from the Rosemont Writer’s Retreat and feeling unbelievably energized and crazy exhausted at the same time. How is this possible you might ask?–It’s a bizarre phenomenon that happens at writer’s retreats. I wasn’t sure how I would feel when the retreat was finished or how much, if any, work I would get done on my own writing while I was there. This was our first stab at such an event, and as such there were lots of reasons to be completely stressed out. Not that I need much of a push in that direction. If I’m not feeling anxious about something, I’m either on the treadmill or asleep.

All I can say is that the retreat completely exceeded all my expectations–and you really can’t ask for more than that, can you? The students and faculty were fantastic and made my job as program director very easy. The group was small but energized and I know everyone got so much writing done–I managed to crank out about 25 revised pages of work–much more than I had hoped for! One of the students, Aimee LaBrie, (her blog is fantastic, and she’s posted some really great stuff about the retreat) started a group story that was hilarious and full of the kind of insidery stuff you hope people come away with after a week of intense togetherness. Courtney Bambrick read the piece at the closing supper and I laughed until my face hurt.

Charles Holdefer, one of the fiction faculty, came all the way from Brussels Belgium to teach! I first met Charles in 2001, the first time I went out to the University of Iowa Summer Writer’s Festival. I loved his workshop so much that I went back the next summer and dragged Christine (Weiser) with me. She fell in love with Charles too. CW and I kept in touch with him (I saw him again the next summer but took someone else’s workshop) and when we launched the retreat, he was the first person I asked to come teach, never dreaming that he would want to come, or be able to get away from his job teaching at the University of Poitier in France. Having these kinds of long distance, work related relations can be really interesting, and I have to say, I was so happy to actually be able to hang out with Charles. We talked about politics and books and religion–it was great.

Liz Abrams-Morley taught poetry for us this summer and although she’s on the standing Rosemont faculty I never had her for class–she was wonderful and funny and generous. If you ever have the opportunity to hear her read, you should go–she’s local and fabulous!

Curtis Smith, who taught Creative Non Fiction, was a blast. Curt, who grew up in Ardmore but lives in Hershey, has read for PS on several occasions, but again, it was one of those things were we never really got to socialize. Curt is an amazing reader, and is one of those writers who approach being published like machine–we were all in awe.

And Elise Juska, again, just a really wonderful, gracious person. We kicked off the Writers and Readers series with Elise, and she set the bar high and me at ease. Elise is moving back to the area in the Fall, her boyfriend will be a poet-in-residence at Princeton, so again any chance you get to hear her read, or take one of her workshops–don’t think about it–do it!

We had some fantastic guest authors make it out to campus too: Greg Frost, Anne Kaier, Catherine Stine, Beth Goldner, Christine Weiser, Denise Gess, Liz Corcoran and Marc Schuster. After the closing dinner on Friday, a group of students and faculty headed over to Gulifty’s–a big Villanova hangout–drank some cold beers and then finished the evening sitting on Marc and Kerri Schuster’s porch, petting their pooch Pete and talking.

We’ve already received the go ahead for next year and should have some preliminary information for folks in the fall–so stay tuned.

Rainy Book Festival

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Darth still held his own today, but the sun goddess was not smiling upon us at the Book Festival. The skies split about 3:00, so we packed it up early. I wish I had more time to walk around and see/schmooze with the other exhibitors (especially McSweeneys — who funds those gorgeous publications??). I didn’t mind too much wrapping up early since I had a buttload of work to do anyway. I hope some folks showed up for Barbara. — cw

Fun Book Festival

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Great day today at the Free Library Book Festival. The weather held out, and the traffic was steady. Bernadette Peters had to compete with the popular Darth Vader and his crew, but she seemed to hold her own as she read to a big crowd from her new picture book, Broadway Barks.

We had lots of people stop by our booth, and it was good to hear not only how many people knew Philadelphia Stories, but knew which issues they missed. We got a few pre-orders on my book, Broad Street (our first release from our new book division, PS Books, coming out this fall), and I saw Jennifer Weiner long enough to remind her that she had a galley of the book to consider for an endorsement (which she seemed to forget about, but I’ll forgive her since she just had a kid!). She moderated a really interesting panel (along with Rachel Pastan, Amy Richards, and a woman whose name I forget) about the challenging truth of motherhood: it ain’t always the sacred job society still paints it to be. The panel, who all have books related to the subject, made some great points about how even in today’s “liberated” society, if a mom even hints that maybe she sometimes resents the loss of her freedom or wants to work rather than change a diaper, she is often criticized and looked down upon. They discussed how many marriages begin with the intention of a 50/50 sharing of all domestic duties, but this is often skewed once the kid comes along and mom (who usually doesn’t make as much as much as dad) gets saddled with the bulk of child care. Speaking from my own experience, I would say this is true. I would also say there can be a certain household power that comes along with this role, and I don’t always give my husband the opportunity to take back some of his share. There lies but one challenge in the quest for redefining the contemporary family.

This topic also hit home with me because our spring 2009 book release, Wonder Mom, Party Girl by Marc Schuster, deals with a suburban divorced mother of two who gets addicted to coke. The initial feedback we received from readers was: how can she do this? She’s a mom! Would they say that if the character were a suburban divorced dad of two who gets addicted to coke? 

Tomorrow, Barbara Walters will read from her new memoir. What would her take be, I wonder? — cw

Still in the Middle

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So, we’re still in the middle of the Philadelphia Stories events storm that started with the online auction, then our fundraiser/party a few Saturdays ago (which involved practicing and playing all new material with a band (The Tights) I haven’t played with in, I don’t know, two years ), getting ready for the Free Library festival this weekend, and then our first week long retreat in partnership with Rosemont College that starts on June 9. Oh — did I mention Carla and I work full time for paying jobs? I hate whiners, and this really isn’t a rant because really I’m having a pretty good time. 

Probably time to bring in a few more PS voices, and we’ve had two kind volunteers: Christine and Cecily, who promise to share their wisdom on our blog. If Carla ever catches her breath between grading papers, coordinating the conference, schlepping magazines to the library, etc., she’ll be chiming in, too.