Monday, July 20, 2009

Chautauqua, Part Two

Cross posted, once again, from the Blue Rose Girls.


As I mentioned last week, I've been at the Highlights Foundation Writer's Workshop at Chautauqua.

Chautauqua. Ah, Chautauqua. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1) The Athenaeum Hotel, my home for a week. This was the first hotel in the world to have electric lights, thanks mainly to the fact that Thomas Edison's father co-founded the Chautauqua Institution.

2) My lovely hotel room and lake view. The sun rose over the lake in the morning, bringing a lovely light to the room.

3) Great outings, like the chicken cookout where Jerry and Eileen Spinelli interviewed each other (this is where I found out the interesting tidbits about Jerry that I mentioned last week. Another interesting fact: his favorite movie is Anne of Green Gables!).

4) Speaking of outings, one evening we took a fascinating visit to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, the highlight of which was seeing a drawer of bird specimens, including extinct birds, such as the passenger pigeon and the ivory-billed woodpecker, aka the "Lord God Bird" (the latter perhaps not extinct after all...).

5) Inspiring and informational speakers throughout (myself included, I hope!). The morning keynote sessions were held in the Hall of Christ Sanctuary. Peter Jacobi (let your words take flight and soar), Patricia Lee Gauch (who urged writers to "Be a little crazy! Be a LOT crazy!"), Stephen Roxburgh (who talked about technology and called books and e-Books "word buckets," saying that "Readers are readers. They seek words that mean something."), and more.

6) The art and culture infused all throughout Chautauqua. Walking around, you couldn't help but run into a concert, a lecture, or perhaps the circus...

7) The last night surprise tribute to Highlights Foundation co-founder Kent Brown, who is the visionary behind the Writers Workshop, which celebrated its 25th Anniversary this past weekend. Several of the faculty, including Peter Jacobi and Larry Pringle, had been there at the very first conference. They, along with others like Jerry Spinelli:

and Patty Lee Gauch:

gave heartfelt and funny tributes to Kent. It was like a roast without the insults.

8) The auction Thursday night that funded a brand-new scholarship in Patricia Lee Gauch's honor (she retired from Philomel a few weeks ago). One of my favorite auction items was this cuddly bear from the Spinelli's, complete with inspiring poem:

9) Lovely gifts from authors (aside from their writing, of course!) Here's a bouquet of flower pens that one author made for me! And given to me on my birthday, too. It was one of two birthday gifts I received from authors at the conference. Not a bad way to spend my birthday.

10) The people. The faculty, the writers, and especially the staff and volunteers, all combined to make it a warm, supportive, friendly, and inspiring week.

As you can tell, I'm a Chautauqua convert. I thought the schedule and set-up was the perfect balance of practical information and inspiration. Being in such a magical setting was inspiration in itself. Who knows, maybe someday I'll be able to buy a summer home there...we all need to dream, right?


Tess said...

I had the opportunity to attend Chautauqua last year and mentored under Patti Gauch. It was heaven and more. Thanks for posting these great pics..they brought back memories :D

Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu said...

Great pictures, Alvina! I ended up with quite a few of the porch at the Athenaeum!

Susan said...

You described Chautauqua and the Writers Workshop exactly right, Alvina! I'm fortunate to live only nine miles from the Institute.

Jey Manokaran said...

A belated Happy Birthday, Alvina! I was at Chautauqua this year and we met on the last day. It was an amazing close encounter with the best writers and editors! They were inspiring, friendly and so accessible.

Kelly Milner Halls said...

I taught some nonfiction workshops at Chautauqua a couple of years ago and I felt exactly as you did -- stunned by the almost surreal atmosphere and setting, moved by the work ethic of the writers I was lucky enough to mentor, embraced by the Highlights family. It was fun to relive those warm fuzzies though your blog. Thanks for sharing.

Kelly Milner Halls

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