June 4, 2008

Due North

I headed north last weekend for a quick visit with Nora. It was wonderful to see her and good to be back in the Bay Area again. Paul was planning to work all weekend and decided to treat me to airline tickets to San Francisco. It was a win-win. I got to see Nora, and Paul could work on both Saturday and Sunday without feeling guilty. Okay. It was more of a win for me. Love that Paul.

Nora and I did lots of talking with a little exploring, napping, and movie-viewing thrown in. Our first stop was the Oakland Rose Garden. Armed with Nora's new camera and my trusty digital Nikon, we attempted to capture the beauty of a garden filled with roses slightly past their prime. We weren't alone.

An ornately attired quinceanera party was posing in tuxedos and green satin ball gowns. The birthday girl had a long white dress topped with an elaborate rhinestone crown. Her date wore a white tuxedo with tails and there were enough smiling attendants to fill up two shiny white Hummer limos. There was wedding photography as well. The groom dictated what shots he wanted--directing both the bride and the photographer. "Walk down the path, look at me, then your flowers, big smile." The photographic process was so orchestrated and unnatural it was uncomfortable to watch. It made me wonder about the challenge of capturing the natural spontaneity of an event as opposed to editing the reality into a perfect, posed fantasy. I doubt that the joyful, spontaneous essence of the wedding or the quinceaneara was captured in any of the staged photographs in the Rose Garden. Seems like there's a writing lesson in here somewhere.

Sunday we drove across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, past San Quention prison, to Corte Madera, the location of a great Bay Area bookstore, Book Passages. Both Nora and I are going to be taking writing courses there this summer. Nora is signed up for a one-day course on How to Write the Personal Essay taught by Jon Carroll, a SF Chronicle columnist. Seems like a perfect class for bloggers, and perhaps future bloggers.

I will visit Corte Madera in July when I attend the Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference. I've been trying to read the work of the instructors before I go. Just finished two Gennifter Choldenko books, If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, and Notes from a Liar and Her Dog. Gennifer's second book, Al Capone Does My Shirts was a Newbery Honor Book. She is the premier middle grade author at the conference and I think I can learn a lot from her. Her books are great reads for 10 year olds to tweens, and they are also a terrific resource for analyzing what makes a good middle grade novel. Her plots aren't terribly complex, but they are well-woven and rich with strong characters and sustainable conflicts. I'm going to re-read her newest book in order to dissect her plotting techniques. Plots still frustrate me.

Only seven more days of school and only fourteen more days of employment. Can't wait until June 25th. Whoopee!


laurasmagicday said...

WOW Maggie! What a wonderful resource. I'll have to check out Book Passages when I'm up North again. Thanks for sharing. That conference sounds so interesting. How great that Nora is interested in writing too:) Loved the pics. Looks like a lovely place. It's fun to stumble into people celebrating [although the groom sounded a bit bossy] We ran into a bunch of high schoolers doing prom when Candy graduated a couple weekends back. Great to hear from you. Hope your knee is better every day!

Maggie said...

Book Passages is my summer writing inspiration this year. It's only the second time they've had this conference but I met a writer/editor at Big Sur who was involved in it last year and she gave it a hearty endorsement. I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the get well wishes--while I'm not quite ready to run, the walking is getting easier.