Portland Retreat with the Gang of Erin!

Hello everyone!

Sit back and relax... because I have a feeling this will be a ridiculously long post. Last week for four blissful days, I was at McMenamins in Edgefield (just outside of Portland) with my phenomenal agent, Erin Murphy, and some of the Gang of Erin -- about fifteen of her phenomenal authors (including one author-agent, who you'll hear more about soon!)

Oh, where to begin... first, the grounds, which more than made up for the 105 DEGREE WEATHER!!!

Outside view of a magical nook-tree in one of their gardens:

Inside the magical tree-nook! I really, really want one of these for my yard... I'd spend hours reading inside it.

Vineyards galore!

Zillions of sun-warmed blackberries to munch on during strolls around the grounds (which is what I did during afternoon breaks from my seemingly endless revisions of The Ruby Notebook.)

And now, for the artwork! Murals cover the three-story lodge, which used to be a poorhouse, and later an old folks' home, and now a hotel.

Tributes to the old-timers abound:

This mermaid was in the "Ladies' Lounge", and it makes me think of Ammi-Joan Paquette, who is now working on a novel involving mermaids! I've heard a bit of it, and it's fantastic...

My room featured the "Waltz King", who-- according to the story painted on the wall-- was a beloved resident of the old folks' home who loved to dance and is now waltzing in heaven... (A sidenote: this lodge is supposedly haunted, and although our breakfasts were abuzz with ghost reports from the previous nights, the Waltz King must have been perfectly content waltzing away up there, because he didn't bother me once...)

Even the exit signs and exposed pipes were decorated:

It felt like you could walk right into some of the paintings, like this pathway through a forest.

And now for the very best part of all... my fellow retreaters! We spent a lot of time hanging out and talking and eating and trying to stay cool. In the mornings, we met in the library and had semi-structured conversations about stuff like the intersection of market and craft, school visits, and permission to make desperate phone calls to Erin when we're overflowing with angst for one reason or another... (I haven't done this yet, but now that I know I can, don't be surprised if Erin gets a 3 a.m. phone call about my revision woes...) We also read aloud from our works-in-progress, and I was FLOORED. Every single person's work is extraordinary... completely riveting. We laughed, we cried, we bonded in a big way...

Back row, from left: me, Kathy Duval, Susan Hampton, Cynthia Levinson, Dawn Dixon, Zu Vincent, Erin Murphy, Colin McMucray
Front Row: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Tamara Ellis Smith, Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ruth Barshaw was having an outdoor adventure of some sort (a big rock? a dam? Washington state? can't remember...) when the above pic was taken. So was Conrad, but somehow, I don't have a pic of him. Sorry, Conrad! Anyway, here is Ruth, in all her artistic glory:

She carries a little sketchpad around everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE, like even in the hot soaking pool at 10 pm. Hardcore. She writes the funny and wildly creative middle grade series starring Ellie McDoodle, her alter ego:

Here I am with Ammi-Joan Paquette (the one I associate with mermaids) at dinner. Just behind Joan is Tam-- an amazing pre-published young adult author. So talented and smart... we had great conversations in the back seat while car-pooling to Powells to oggle at the gigantic selection of kids' and teens' books (and of course, getting giddy to see our fellow Gang of Erinites' books featured.)

Joan has just joined Erin Murphy Litereary Agency as a new agent on board, which we're all super-excited about. Interestingly, her globe-trotting girlhood has much in common with Zeeta's, the star of my Notebooks series. Joan wrote this gorgeous picturebook that entices the imagination... I'll have to pull Toddler son away from his trucks and trains and construction vehicles and enlist him to go fairy-tracking with me in our yard... I think he'll get into it!

Here is the hilarious Dawn Dixon (left) and yoga master Zu Vincent (right) at the wine-tasting place.

Zu Vincent is the lovely author of The Lucky Place, a young adult novel I can't wait to read! Beautiful cover, isn't it?

Here are the brilliant and fun Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Kathy Duval, Ruth Barshaw, and Colin McMurcray (our tireless Portland retreat organizer)

Kathy Duval has written a bunch of wonderful picture books, including this one:

Needless to say, Toddler is in heaven with the new books I brought home for him.

Speaking of Toddler, he'll be up from his nap any minute now, so I'll sign off now... Thanks for reading!