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Frank McCourt‘s passing is a loss to us all–to his family, his many students and readers all over the world. Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis and Teacher Man are some of my favorite books in print and audio, read by the mesmerizing author. He was a bright spirit. I was privileged to meet him at the Maui Writers Conference.

(I had a fake tattoo and a real sunburn. Frank was gracious to his fangirl.)

Frank’s younger brother Malachy is a fine friend who spent a memorable week here a couple of years back. Cheers to Malachy and the family! And Godspeed to Frank.

“Happiness is hard to recall. It is just a glow.” –Frank McCourt

Today’s guest blog is by my friend and fellow writer/editor, Lori. You can meet her, Aubrey and Pam, and many other literary luminaries at the upcoming conference.

Aubrey, Lori, PamThe 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. Aubrey & Lori at the Field’s End conference

‘Tis done. We talked, sang, laughed, cried, created, learned, ate and had an incredible day at the Field’s End conference. Thanks to all the amazing speakers and writers who participated. Special thanks to the Bainbridge Island Beach Cottage for providing accommodations. There’s a slide show of the event here. Happy writing to all!

FE conference

Authors Carol Cassella, Michael Donnelly, Mickey Molnaire at Kiana Lodge.

I love this time of year, because my Inner Irish Girl gets to come out and play. She looks out her window and sees this: ferry with rainbow

She gets to wear a sweater in the worst shade of green. She eats food in colors not found in nature, drinks beer to match and paints shamrocks on her fingernails. She bakes Skillet Irish Soda Bread, listens to music by the Young Dubliners and invites her friends over to watch Waking Ned Devine and The Commitments.

Also, my Inner Irish Girl gets to tell you about one of her favorite writers and people– Malachy McCourt. I’ve been to many, many writers’ conferences and sat through many Malachy McCourta keynote speech. Most of these have been excellent–these are writers, after all. But there’s one talk that stands out in my mind. It was an address to a huge ballroom full of people, mostly restless, socially-awkward writers hungry to hone their craft. It was a speech about the power of story and the deep well inside the writer, the place you go to again and again, seeking those hidden springs, where everything comes from. It was the kind of talk that makes you jump up out of your seat and rush to find a quiet spot, because you can’t wait to get going on your writing. This talk was given at the Maui Writers Conference by Malachy McCourt.

Of all the writers I know (and you’ll meet many of them on this blog, so stay tuned), Malachy has the most unique and varied bio. He’s been everything, including but not limited to: bestselling writer, film actor, columnist, theater actor and the Green Party’s candidate for Governor of New York. Frank & Malachy McCourt

 Malachy is the special luncheon speaker for the one-day, one-of-a-kind conference, “Writing in the Garden of the Gods,” on April 28. Take it from a jaded been-there-done-that writing conference veteran–you don’t want to miss this. And if that doesn’t convince you, just ask your own Inner Irish Girl or Irishman. It’s no blarney.

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