Monday, July 19, 2010

Blue Mountain Retreat--ooweeeee!

I've escaped real life for a week in the woods of western Maryland! Thank goodness I'm not alone like Thoreau. The other writers here have just attended an SCBWI conference this weekend, and I've been involved with writers at home in the Alabama Writers' Conclave.

Deciding which genre to participate in is always a problem for me at any conference, but this weekend was a no-brainer. Recently, I've toyed over the idea of taking a semester of CNF at my alma mater, Spalding U, with Elaine Orr. (Next summer the group will be in Tuscany!! I think I could write some good stuff there.) Anyway, in light of that fact, I stuck mostly with Kathy Rhodes who edits Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal. www. (See my published short story there--"Woman's Wait," first issue of 2010.) That she has published my work had a little something to do with my interest as well.

My dear friend Susan Luther was also there presenting poetry, and Jo Kittinger was presenting for children's lit. I managed to sit in on one of Jo's very informative sessions where she, by example with Highlights for Children, showed the writers how to target a magazine market. Susan and I swapped poetry books and some good ideas.

We writers need to learn to listen more for good ideas and speak less. We'd learn more. (I'm talking to myself. Many of us are teachers ourselves and are used to presenting, but much is to be learned from other writers.)

Our writer hostess here is Edie Hemingway. (See and also google her great new book, ROAD TO TATER HILL. Great trailer on you tube. Catch up with her also at ) Edie and Doug, head chef in the household, live in a log cabin at the foot of a small mountain in very picturesque Frederick. We traveled about thirty minutes west to this idyllic organic farm. On the way we passed Harper's Ferry and the scenery is breathtaking. Right now I'm leaving to pick blackberries. More later.

LATER: I applied sun screen and wore my baseball hat and trusty walking shoes for the trek down the path to the gardens. The katydids and other critters were all tuning up for the day on the shady path down. I tried to recognize trees, but they're so different from Alabama trees I can't name them.

I am equally ignorant of most of the plants in the garden. Beth, the propietor had said the "wall" of blackberries was in the first fenced garden. (Deer I do know!!) It has a rickety old gate she said and the only requirement for picking blackberries is that you close that gate behind you. I first examined the sheds on the premises which had large white buckets for picking, I presume, and small quart-sized recylcled food containers strung with hemp of some kind for picking and holding it on your shoulder, I supposed. Buckets of red geraniums livened up the place as did clumps of flowers planted at the ends of rows in the vegetable gardens.

My first try at opening the gate was a bust. Don't ask me to write a mystery. The wire (I call it hay-baling wire) that held the two parts of the gate together were twisted for about four inches and my hands weren't strong enough to untwist the thing. Not easily bested, I walked on out to Beth's home and called her from the garage. She said, "Did you try lifting the wire up off the slats?" Duh. I hadn't even noticed that possibility. She offered me a small quart container to pick some breakfast berries for the group.

Once inside the garden, I was astonished at seeing so many blackberries so easily accessible. Back home, if I pick blackberries, it is definitely a Br'er Rabbit situation and you'd better watch out or you'll get stuck in the briars. Or worse, encounter a rattlesnake who's afraid of you. He will bite. These blackberries have no briars. And I saw no snakes. And since we're all organic here with no pesticides, guess who ate her fill as she picked? Me, yes. The one with the blue, seedy teeth.

The blackberries were staked and stood taller than head-high in long rows. My first inclination was to go to the far end of the rows because I know the novice will always start on the end nearest the gate. A natural thing. But after I had walked about halfway, it struck me that it didn't matter where I picked because I'd have a quart in no time. My problem would be stopping. When there are fruits or vegetables ready to be picked, I find it hard not to pick everything that is ready. That's how you're trained on a farm. Any time I've ever gone to a peach or blueberry pickin' place, I always have to talk myself into stopping? What would I do with bushels of peaches or gallons of blueberries.

So, about midway of the garden I began picking the most plump, lucious blackberries I've ever seen. They were hanging in large clumps with an equal number of red and purplish-black ones. If you don't know the blackberry, you will be stunned for a moment at the first taste--its tartness, its seeds. But like an infant after its first taste of apple juice you will want more. Lots more.

Edie is dropping Donny Seagraves (a presenting writer at the SCBWI conference) at the airport and Patti Zelch and Teresa Crumpton are along for the ride. Gayle, Bonnie, and I are holding down the fort (we're supposed to be working) here. I've sent a list of ingredients for them to bring back so that I can back a blackberry cobbler sometime this week. Or one every day???

Tune in tomorrow for that story. Meantime check out the web sites of the published writers/friends here:

Edith Hemingway at
Patti Zelch at for READY, SET, WAIT! Search for Author Patti Zelch on Facebook.
Teresa Crumpton, ya writer, has a web site in progress. She has fine-tuned her ya novel and is looking for a good home for it. Visit her on Facebook
Bonnie Doerr at See her blog and try for a free copy of ISLAND STING at
Donny Seagraves at or see the blog at
Gayle Payne, our wonderful airport shuttle and fellow poet from Ft. Lauderdale, is here, too. She writes but needs to enter the 21st century--her quote. She has a great body of fiction on different levels, so look out for her!
Kathleen Thompson,

That's who's here. And there.


Bonnie J. Doerr said...

It's truly heaven here and your presence is a big part of the reason why!

Kathleen Thompson said...

Thnks, Bonny Bonnie!

Donny Bailey Seagraves said...

Sorry I couldn't stay longer with all of you super writer super women! Thanks for this great blog post, Kathleen.

Kathleen Thompson said...

Good to see you in MD, Donny, and I look forward to seeing you back at home in Southern Breeze.

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