Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Home again, home again

I'm back home in NY, flew in on the redeye that landed yesterday morning. I usually go into work after taking a redeye flight, but this time I decided to take a personal day for a change, which was good timing because my cousin Jeanne is in town and I was able to have lunch and coffee with her.

But about Oregon...this might be a boring post, but I wanted to briefly (somewhat!) get down my experiences there. And I have lots of pictures, too!

When I landed in Portland, I had two messages waiting for me on my cellphone. One from Sachin telling me that a plane crashed into a building a block away from my apartment, and another from my roommate Rose telling me that she had been home at the time, heard a strange noise, then sirens, but thought it was just a car accident until her mother called her.

It was a bit of a startling way to start the trip. But my author Gretchen Olson (I always feel funny saying "my author" but someone pointed out that authors say "my editor" so what the heck) picked me up at the airport and whisked me off to lunch at one of the many McMenamins--this one was Edgefield Manor, a renovated Poor Farm. There was wonderful art everywhere, we walked around the grounds under clear blue skies, I became obsessed with taking pictures of the water tower (above), and then we sat down for a beer sampler.
I spent the night at my cousin Julie's--she moved to Portland just about a month ago to study Classical Chinese Medicine. Thai food dinner, decadent desserts at Pix. I was also able to meet another of "my" authors David Greenberg (Slugs, Skunks, Snakes, Bugs, The Book of Boys for Girls & The Book of Girls for Boys, etc.) for lunch the next day. I've worked with David for a long time but have never met him face to face. We had a nice lunch and stroll along the waterfront.

And then SCBWI member Cliff picked me up at the restaurant to drive me the hour or so to Silver Falls where the SCBWI retreat was being held.

It was at an isolated conference center, and I have to admit that I wasn't quite prepared for how bare-bones it was going to be--no cell phone service, no tv, no internet, just a small cabin with two twin-sized beds, a small desk, a clock radio, and a bathroom. It was all fine and good in the end, but I hadn't mentally prepared for that, and also hadn't told anyone that I would be unreachable. But no worries--it was absolutely beautiful, green everywhere with hints of flame-red leaves peeking through. And the weather was still gorgeous, too: sunny with a perfect, clear blue sky, 70s during the day. Very unlike-Oregon-in-the-fall weather, everyone said.Thursday night was the dinner and welcome, and the faculty was given welcome gift bags filled with all kinds of goodies. Mine held some surprise marathon swag--I love the note that was included: There was the burning of the rejection letters (none from me, thank goodness!), and then I escaped to my cabin to finish up with my critiques and prepare for my talk. Oh, but first, the stars! I could see stars!

I went for a run early Friday morning with my whistle and bell that was given to me the night before to ward off bears and cougars (yikes), and came across a clearing where I saw two tawny-colored foxes. It was awesome, but then I got a little creeped out (what if they ran towards me and ripped my throat out?!?), so I took off running again.

The conference overall was wonderful. As always at SCBWI conferences, everyone was so friendly and welcoming and warm. The speakers were interesting and thought-provoking, the food was great (especially the desserts), and the after-parties surprising, complete with angst-ridden songs about writing and rejection letters sung to the tune of London Bridges, Moon River, and more. I wrote my own song to add to their collection--from the editor's point of view, or "payback" as they say. It's sung to Mary Had a Little Lamb and the first line is "Editors are people, too..."

I think my talk on Saturday morning went well--everyone laughed at the right spots, and I was able to expand on my parent's love story and talk about my own path to publishing. And yes, Cheryl and others, please comment on my blog! And I still want that spinach and tofu recipe...

Cliff took us on a hike to two waterfalls after my talk:The number of attendees (60 people) and length of time (almost three days) allowed me to really get to know a lot of the people there, and when it was time to say good-bye, I felt a pang--it was like saying goodbye at Kindling Words, except knowing that I probably wasn't going to see most of the people again. But I hope to hear from most of them, maybe even via this blog! And I've never actually bought anything as a direct result of a conference, but perhaps this one will be the first. Experiences like this always make me want to work with everyone, but of course I know that's not possible.

After the conference I got to have a lot of quality time with my author and incredible host Gretchen Olson--I stayed with her for a night out on her blueberry farm in Amity, Oregon in her absolutely beautiful, custom-made home. She prepared an incredible brunch on Monday, and we hung out in McMinnville all the next day where I tasted some wine, and we checked out the Hands and Words are Not for Hurting Week and her Purple Pail Partners. Particularly moving and eye-opening was a trip to the local jail, but I think that's going to take a whole post of its own.
And now I'm back to the real world. Sigh. Oh, to be sitting in a cafe in Portland sipping chai again.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you came to our retreat. It was a pleasure to meet you.

Your thoughts on multicultural characters has inspired me to work on a story from a recent experience I had working with some Spanish-speaking students in my daughters school.

And if you have managed to inspire Cliff to finish that novel our whole critique group is dying to read, I'll send you another box of Moonstruck chocolates!

Send me the song, and I'll add it to our collection, and come back and see us again sometime.


Laura Atkins said...

Welcome back Alvina. I love, love, love Oregon - I think if I could live where I wanted without all the issues of family ties/work/friends, it would be in Portland or outside it. I went to Reed college, which is where I was bit with the bug. It sounds like you had an amazing trip - I wish I could have been there! But thanks to you, I got to do it vicariously. I hope the catch-up isn't too onerous...

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post, Alvina. So glad your whole trip was great. Ditto to Rosanne's post on Cliff's novel. And that tofu spinach manicotti recipe is on its way. (It's even from an Oregon Junior League cookbook, so you can count it as a souvenir.)

There, I posted. And I hardly feel like a stalker at all...

alvinaling said...

Thanks, all! And Rosanne and Cheryl, good to see you here!

I hope I've inspired Cliff...only time will tell.

I'll send the song soon...or heck, maybe I'll post it on the blog in its entirety.

Anonymous said...


It was great meeting you and hearing all about your experiences with editing. Always nice to get another prospective on it! I am so glad that you enjoyed your stay with us....please come and visit again sometime.
Take care....

Best Wishes,

Judi Gardiner

Anonymous said...

I very much enjoyed meeting you and hearing your talk at the SCBWI-OR Silver Falls Retreat. Hope you do get a chance to return someday. And thanks for your advice about reading blogs for professional reasons. Now I can read 'em without guilt, there only being so many hours (36?) in my average day.

I'm glad you liked our songs (after you revise yours, maybe we could add it to ours?) and I hope my read-by-flashlight scary story didn't give you any bad dreams.

Mary from rainy WA (wondering if you'd also like the recipe for a (salivate salivate) tofu-broccoli-cheese casserole)