The last weekend in April used to signify my daughter’s birthday was approaching. Now it means the annual Field’s End Writers’ Conference. Aubrey’s birthday is still at the tail end of April; we just have a new way of celebrating it. Last year was our first Field’s End experience. We stayed the night at the Clearwater Casino Resort – a treat for us. Not only did we get meaningful girl time, but Aubrey was especially delighted with the hotel’s accoutrements. We still have the fun cell phone video clips of Aubrey showing off the hotel room. The spinning chair in front of the vanity was particularly exciting.
At the actual conference, Aubrey was initially cowed at being the only young person in a roomful of adults. But the Field’s End participants are a very friendly lot, so Aubrey soon relaxed. We were lucky enough to land at tables with speakers Garth Stein and Robert Dugoni. They helped draw out Aubrey – and everyone else. Bob Dugoni “escorted” Aubrey to the first break-out session. Her workshop tastes ran differently than mine, and she evidently didn’t feel the need to cling to my side the entire day. When we did get together, I was impressed with how well she sat still. An entire day is a long time – thank goodness for Malachy McCourt! Even though she couldn’t remember how to pronounce his name, she asked me recently if he would be there again. Aubrey took away ideas from each speaker, but it was Mr. McCourt’s presentation she found most enthralling. No surprise! Later we had a grand time purchasing books and getting authors’ autographs and personalized messages. What a delight to see Aubrey bloom into a young woman and a creative presence. There are many, many things we learned that day and which remain part of who we are a year later. This year Aubrey told me that she would like to go back to Field’s End for her birthday (and she gets that this means not much else in the way of birthday presents!). So register, we did.
Aubrey’s writing interests are strong and deep, although she’s still not sure she wants to be a writer. But as some of the Field’s End participants reminded us, a writer is not something you become, it’s something you are. Thus, Aubrey is a writer, and a good one. She’s taking honors classes this year (sixth grade) and scored 100 percent on her most recent Reading WASL. Her Writing WASL score was close behind. She counts attending the Young Authors Conference at Skagit Valley College nearly every year during elementary school as one of her writing-related accomplishments. Children’s book author George Shannon is a frequent presenter, so she was excited to “know somebody” at Field’s End last year!My mom, Pam, has never thought of herself as a writer, but she is certainly skilled. She chose (was there much of a choice in those days?!) to be a mom, wife and homemaker. While I was at the UW, she earned her A.A. from Everett Community College. I always knew she was an excellent proofreader and organizer, if you will, of written materials, but I recently realized that she’s also a talented writer. She can deftly describe her own and other people’s feelings and motivations. Mom would disagree (LOL). Once she decides to believe in her skill and channel it to a specific project of her own, look out! For now, she is helping to research and write a book with her brother.
I’m actually writing the children’s chapter-book version of the same story. Although I’m an on-again, off-again kind of fiction writer, I’m still very committed to this story. My preference is to fix and organize words rather than to originate them. That’s the editor in me. My mom recently showed me a progress report from my first-grade teacher. I wanted to be a nurse, teacher, hairstylist and editor. How crazy is that? What six-year-old kid knows what an editor is? I evidently figured it out, and it has stuck with me. My mom plans to join us this year. Aubrey’s okay with sharing a bed with me, although I offered to have her and Grandma bunk together because Grandma’s skinnier than I am and will take up less room. We’ll see what happens.
It’s not long now until we return to the garden of the gods at Kiana Lodge, host to the Field’s End Writers’ Conference. I should ask Aubrey how many days until our adventure begins. She’ll know.