As I'm sure I have mentioned in prior posts, Beverly Cleary was to my childhood what Miley Cyrus might be to girls today. So in large part thanks to Mrs. Matsushige (kindergarten teacher) and Mrs. Cleary...
As I believe I have also mentioned, my stint at Vermont College coincided with (or perhaps instigated) a cascade of changes in my life. Within two years, I finally felt entitled to call myself a professional writer; I was engaged, married, owned a home, and was expecting a child. What suffered as a result of all this busy-ness, of course, was the very thing I went to Vermont College to live and breathe -- writing for children.
With my kids finally sleeping through the night (though not so much lately, but that's another story), I returned this past summer to Montpelier for an alumni reunion and a dose of inspiration. Between work and kids, I was unable to take full advantage of the planned events. Perhaps the most useful thing that happened was completely serendipitous and cool.
Be it known that I live in Nowhere, Maryland -- Lake Linganore, to be precise. The nearest post office is in New Market, and the nearest everything else is in Frederick, a beautiful gem of a city where tractors often travel at 15 mph on one-lane roads with lines of cars behind them. And no one honks! (Our children have learned some foul language in these situations, but of course we are transplants.)
At any rate, I was perusing the very thoughtfully aseembled alumni brochure at VC and noted that one Shawn K. Stout also lives in Frederick, MD (!). I introduced myself to her and discovered that she, too, was greatly missing the community that VC offered and hoping to find a critique group locally. We met for dinner once we returned home and I learned that she is from my husband's hometown of (even-more-obscure) Hagerstown, MD. She lives two blocks from our favorite brew pub. And, most exciting, she just published her first book, Fiona Finkelstein: Big-Time Ballerina!! Very much in the spirit of a modern Beverly Cleary, it is fun, funny, and the perfect read-aloud (or maybe even read-to-herself) for my daughter in about a year. It even features a soap opera actress. Love Live Fiona! (In fact, Fiona will be back for an encore performance very soon.)
My daughter and I went to a book-signing at the wonderful Dancing Bear toy store in Frederick, where we spent too much money (as always) and supported our favorite local author. The store also features works of fellow VC alum (and former faculty member) Deborah Wiles, who once lived in -- you guessed it, Frederick!
Shawn K. Stout at the Dancing Bear
My scene-stealing ballerina (Discovery Station, Hagerstown)