Two weeks ago I ventured to upstate New York to a retreat run by Sophie Blackall called Milkwood.
Each detail in the space, from the rooms to the halls felt as though it was from a kidlit fairytale. I spent the weekend with wonderful authors, Ruth Chan, Cátia Chien, Mike Curato, Sophie Diao, Xelena Gonzalez, Irena Freitas, Sharee Miller, Qing Zhuang and K-Fai Steele.
We didn’t have an agenda. We walked, talked about the book industry, shared our work and made new work while being graciously cared for by Sophie, Ed and their lovely crew. I felt completely away from the world, surrounded by abundant land and beautiful skies.
It’s rare to gather together in a space where we aren’t asked to do or be anything but our creative selves. To share with one another and have a gorgeous space to pause and rest.
The reality of working on books can be rough. Like any job it’s rife with stress, disappointments and fear. During the pandemic it magnified. My books may falter, my work may not make any lists or garner awards, the sales may dampen or fizzle… the excitement of tv/film deals will come and go, but the relationships I forge and the connections I make will sustain.
On the last evening together, Sophie brought out wish lanterns. We paired up and released them into the autumn sky. I was magical.
My time at Milkwood was a balm to the pressure and sadness that lurks in the corners of this work. It reminded me of the beauty in the world. The beauty in community and creation. Sophie and her crew made delicious food and thought through every detail. The space felt full circle. Making books for kids requires the ability to put ourselves in a child’s shoes, to share magic and joy and maybe some wisdom. My childhood was less than ideal. But in the few days that I spent at Milkwood, I felt like a child. Cared for, nurtured and given the space to breathe.
I am forever grateful.