Category Archives: networking

D.C. in Pictures & the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Fifty years ago this year, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed. President Kennedy was assassinated before he saw the day come, but when Lyndon Johnson signed the act, he said their was no better tribute to our fallen president.

Many of my personal heroes come from the civil rights era, and though a quick trip to D.C. came at a terribly busy time, I was easily talked into accompanying my husband.


Our 4:30 wake-up call was worth this picture of the sky guy.


Before meeting with kids at schools, we stopped in at the offices of Foulger-Pratt. These boys are Gregor’s former college roommates at BYU. We love these good boys. It’s been years and years since we’ve seen each other, but time had hardly seemed to pass at all. They said we looked exactly the same, but I wonder, are we getting older?

That night we went to a school to speak about Hogwarts. This admissions trip is vastly different than NYC. And it has everything to do with culture, family, and money. I felt so incredibly blessed to have good schools for my kids, that I’m not attending school fairs to get my child out of a terrible district with underfunded schools that don’t even have paper!

I love Hogwarts with all my heart and I wish everyone got a howler – but wouldn’t it be better if every single community made education a top priority and no one had to go outside their community to get a top-rate education? Sigh. School systems are tricky and sticky.

The next day was one of my biggest motivations for traveling to D.C.: A National Mall tour where millions of tourists visit to commemorate past presidents, iconic symbols of america, and to celebrate our veterans.

Beware: If you go to DC, don’t follow my route. It’s rather erratic. Go Here to get the full experience.


We had a few hours, so to get around for our tour, we put on our running shoes. Armed with ipods, and me with my iphone for pictures, we started off.


My tour guide was a little…fast. My tour was more like an interval sprint as I kept stopping to take pictures of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime-moment(!) and then had to sprint back up to my tour guide who was still running! I needed to work on speed anyway.


So much history in this place. It took me a few trips to enjoy NYC, but I loved D.C. right away. Of course I was in a very clean and well-kept area, but the city had a clean, cool vibe.

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We didn’t stay long to chat with the IRS!

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At every street corner there were suits


The architecture was incredible

IMG_5649 The Red Cross, inscribed with: “In Memory of the Heroic Women of the Civil War.” Love that.IMG_5653 Wicked CoolIMG_5657 IMG_5661 IMG_5668 The Washington Monument was built to honor George Washington, the first president of the United States. It’s a 555-foot marble obelisk tower overlooking D.C.IMG_5674 Found this in the middle of the National Mall. Made me feel right at home.IMG_5636Department of Commerce

IMG_5645 IMG_5643 The White HouseIMG_5647And bomb-sniffing dogs. Are they always around or just this morning?

Next we ran (sprinted) to the WWII Memorial. IMG_5712

From the Pacific the Atlantic…all the states are honored with the fallen

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I’ve observed: Musicians, songwriters, photographers, and writers find inspiration in sacred places.

IMG_5741 IMG_5735 The work of this artist is stunning, detailed, and poignantIMG_5733 IMG_5732


I imagine this monument would mean that much more if I was sending my son or daughter into combat.

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From there we ran to the Lincoln Monument:IMG_5679

And I stood where Martin stood:IMG_5696This is where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. The next year, the Civil Rights Act was passed. Five years later he would be assassinated.IMG_5688The Lincoln Monument. We arrived sweating and tired from running up the stairs. It’s worth all the steps you’ll ever have to climb.


In the middle of a work week in the middle of October, hundreds of tourists were taking pictures. It was striking – most were foreign speaking. Of all the places they could go on vacation, they came to America, the capitol of the United States to take pictures of the symbols and monuments we have built to represent freedom and equality.

Soon after, we were running again, me taking a photo and then sprinting…”Wait up!”


The sprint was worth this photo. It was a gorgeous day.IMG_5751

Eventually we ran by the Smithsonian Castle and museum. By this point, 10 a.m., I was starving, my blood sugar low from lack of breakfast.


But there were still photos to take. Like our nation’s capital…


There was a ceremony taking place


The view from the opposite end of the mall

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Like NYC, but to a lesser degree, souvenirs for sale. I just wanted food, not a shirt. Wait up, tour guide!


Thankfully, 7 miles later, he found me an apple in the hotel gym. And I lived another day.

From there we headed to another part of D.C. where our “contact,” was.

While waiting, an old man came out. His name is Walter Ray. He was “just writing down some song lyrics.” And this guy, he’s like 80-years-old and he’s got civil rights history! He’s written songs for “I don’t know who all,” including the The Manhattans .

“Do you all like to write?” he asked.

Husband pointed to me, “She does.”

He shakes my hand and says, “The thing is, you gotta have ambition! You just gotta keep at it.”


And I said, “Sir, I need to get your picture (even though I really hate my hair right now).” He obliged and after, showed me two of his published books of poetry.IMG_5816

I was sufficiently inspired.

IMG_5818 Walter’s walls were covered with memorabilia, including this picture. “That’s me with the man right there,” he says.

Walter Ray has two children, Roz and Walter Ray Jr. They are both lawyers. Roz has represented Bill Cosby, Kris Kross, Johnny Cochran – there was an entire wall of autographed photos, including Roz and Hilary Clinton.

Walter Ray jr showed up and we went for crab cakes and talked “business.” IMG_5814Walter looks like this laid-back, casual guy who you may not glance twice at. But he runs a non-profit to help kids go to school. When he starts talking I start taking notes. He knows every basketball stat there is, and connections to everyone in the city.

He hints at political “rats” and scandals, of people who are “distractions to the kids who could actually be somethin’ and you guys is the problem! Masquerading like you’re all that. Rats!” He says, “Satan has a team!”

He says that the best don’t always rise – “most of ’em are in the pen.” Kids, he says, need someone to believe in them. And this of course is where strong families come in.

Walter is working on a documentary of his uncle, Sam Jones, who won ten NBA rings for the Celtics – the second most EVER in history.

We could have listened to Walter all day, but when he writes his book, we’ll be first in line.

After that we headed to Virginia to meet kids at a school.IMG_5833 I took pictures of the art on the wall – how cool is this? It was done by artist-in-resident Stephen Parlato. I was so inspired, again wishing that all kids could get an education with an artist like this.IMG_5834

And then it was time to say adieu to D.C.


We raced to the BMI, stopping to drop off our car rental, take a shuttle, grab some dinner, get through security, shove dinner in mouth, and hop on a plane for an hour and a half. We landed in Manchester NH at midnight and drove an hour home. We were greeted by dear grandmother who had watched our children for two days, played chauffeur, fed darlings, AND kept the house clean. I tell ya, we’ve got it good.

The next morning was a full day at Hogwarts as it was parent’s weekend. I walked around campus with my daughter, thinking of this opportunity she has. Not only is there magic, spells, and arithmetic, there are people who love her, take care of her, encourage her “to rise.”

Fifty years ago the civil rights act was passed, and though we still have problems and society isn’t perfect, we’ve come along way, haven’t we? I’m optimistic for the future. As Walter says, “the best don’t rise unless there’s someone tellin’ ’em what’s up.”


Hold your nose and tweet

That was Lisa Warren, Vice President, Senior Director of Publicity and Acquiring Editor for De Capo Publishing, the largest independent book publisher in America, located in Boston…whew.  That’s quite a title.  (Amy Makechnie, Senior Director of Chaos and Acquiring Children for Makechnie House, the messiest house in America at the moment, located in the woods…).  Whew.  Quite a title.

While Gregor was “Administrator on Duty” all weekend (with all the kids – yes!) I went to Writer’s Day at SNHU on Saturday, learned some great stuff, and met up with other writers, including Kate.  Did you want to go too?  I took notes just in case you were sad to miss it:

Meet the Keynote

If I were ever to point my finger at a quintessential New Englander, I would point right at our keynote speaker, Archer Mayer.  Dry humor, really funny, self-depricating, gruff, rough around the edges, tremendous heart.

This guy is a New York Times best selling author.  Oh, and he’s also a death investigator for Vermont’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, a detective for the Sheriff’s office, the publisher of his own back list, a travel writer for AAA, and has 25 years experience as a firefighter and EMT.

I really enjoyed listening to him and asking some of my own questions, like, “You publish a book a year, so you must be really disciplined.  What is your day like?”  He held up his pager and said, “This is it.  I follow it wherever it takes me, whoever calls, I’m there.”  I was frustrated with that answer – you don’t have a schedule?  You don’t sit down everyday from 9-5 and write?  No way, he’s investigating deaths for the medical examiner!  Who has time to write?

Obviously he does, and he must be pretty darn fast.  He said when he gets an idea, he’s completely committed and will stay up late into the night.  His job is built right into his mystery writing; all these cases, on-the-job experience.  Archer (we’re on a first name basis now) got the job as a medical examiner and detective because he wrote about it so well in his books.  He knows every one of the 1000 cops in Vermont, knows every road, and can’t read other mysteries because he deals with such hard stuff everyday.

He doesn’t make up towns and places, it’s all in Brattleboro Vermont.  You can find that little white house on the corner, but fiction gives him the freedom to lie.

Here were my favorite Archer lines:

1.  Keep your eyes open (on your subject) but keep your distance (removed objectivity).

2.  Have depthless ignorance and curiosity.

3.  You learn to be a writer by learning to be a reader.

4.  All our first efforts stink.  Get over it.

5.  “I yearned to lie.”

6.  Always think, “What is it like to be one of my readers?”  Write for them.

7.  He thinks facebook, blogs, publicity is stupid.  He has to do it anyway.  He refuses to go on Oprah or use Twitter.  Just remember, with the cyber world, don’t forget what’s tail and what’s dog.

8.  Send your manuscript to 5-7 good readers and editors.  Then send it to  New York.

9.  “If you want to be a writer, you gotta pay for the pancakes or you’ll starve.”

10.  Write everyday.  It keeps the music in your head.  Don’t make excuses.  Get it done.  You can’t afford writer’s block – there’s no time for that!

11.  Say it once, say it well, and move on.

12.  Research and then fit the plot into the research.  Readers just want a good story. Exude confidence and they will follow you anywhere you take them.

Thanks, Archie!  Can I call you that?  We’re about to be facebook friends even though he hates facebook and he pointed out the nice lady to does all the cyber stuff for him.

The King’s Assistant, Russell Dorr

I was soooo excited to go to this workshop because I just read Stephen King’s novel, 11/22/63.  Russell Dorr is King’s assistant and did all the research for King’s latest bestseller.  It’s about Jake Epping who goes back in time to stop the assassination of President Kennedy.  Great premise.

I swore off King after I read Carrie in my grandfather’s basement at 14.  Maybe it was just that basement that scared me, but I threw the book across the room I thought it was so evil.  Well, a few years ago I read On Writing and was blown away.  I may not be able to read any of his previous books, but he is a mighty talented writer.

Dorr, a medical doctor, met King when he came into his clinic for food poisoning in the 70’s.  Carrie had just been published and Salem’s Lot was just about to come out.  Dorr didn’t know who King was, but a friendship was formed and King began calling Dorr every time he had a medical question for his book.

Dorr said:

1.  King likes to have all the research ahead of time.  He then takes the threads of realism and weaves them into his fiction. He’s completely able to suspend your belief.

2.  He takes 2 days off a year:  4th of July and Christmas.

3.  He has to listen to the story – the story leads him.  “I didn’t want to kill that boy in Kujo.”  The boy died of hypothermia and dehydration.  “But I had to.”

4.  King is a planner.  He seems the opposite of Archie.

5.  Dorr, the researcher, has only gotten one detail wrong – the color of a valium tablet in 1962.  King then got mean letters from his readers telling him he had messed up!

6.  All the details, the tiny minutia MATTER.

7.  For 11/22/63 he did a ton of timelines, went to all the Dallas sites, very hands-on.

8.  He overwrites and then cuts.

9.  Lee Oswald was a real jerk, a wife beater.  He and his wife, Marina, were living apart at the time of the assassination.  The day before, he went to her and begged her to take him back.  She refused.  The next day he shot the president.  How would history have been changed had she taken him back?

10.  This book is different than anything King has written (which is why I can read it?).  It was hard for King:  “That’s why it’s been so D*!@# hard and why it’s taking so &*%$ long!”

11.  Dorr reads the 1st draft, 2nd draft, 3rddraft (copy editor), 4th draft (computer), and 5th draft (final galley).  Can you imagine reading Kujo five times?  Goodness.

A typical question for Dorr, by King:  “I want a man to be bitten by a rat.  What antibiotic do I need?”  You can’t do it.  There’s no antibiotic.  “That’s not the answer I want!”

I loved the friendship between these two guys.  Dorr says he gets so much joy out of living though King.  Dorr is also still a full-time medical doctor.  I asked Dorr if he would ever consider writing his memoir – he has a great story to tell.  He only smiled.

Young Adult:  Why it Matters

Taught by John Monninger, a YA novelist and professor at Plymouth State.  This guy was like a hyper puppy.  He had a lot of information, spoke really fast, and kind of overwhelmed me.  Here’s what he had to say:

1.  Biggest lie is that being young is great. It’s not – it’s hard!

2.  Supplement by freelancing

3.  40,000 word Young Adult novels are much easier to write than 90,000 adult fiction.  It got me thinking.

4.  Young Adult (Thanks, Hunger Games) is hot right now.

5.  Read the books you like, then look in the acknowledgements for who their agent and publisher is.  Query them.

6.  Middle Grade (6th-8th grade) desperately need good books for boys.

7.  Multiple editors really want the next Ramona!

8.  Graphic novels are big

9.  Anna and the French Kiss, Perfect Chemistry, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Raised by Wolves, Before I Fall, Some Girls Are, Paranormalcy are supposed to be great YA novels.

10.  Don’t swear in YA books.  Do write a linear story:  Go out and come back.

11.  90% of readers of fiction are women.  Really?

So, there you go!  Now you’ve gone to the conference too.  There were other workshops I really wanted to attend, like Mary Carroll Moore’s, but maybe another day, another conference.

There are so many good writers in New Hampshire.  It was so fun to be connected with so many of them.  I felt inspired to keep working and networking.  Thanks to the New Hampshire Writer’s Project – a really great organization.

When I got to Proctor to pick up the kids I felt like I had been run over by a truck. An overload of info. was swimming in my head.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  The kids were nice and went right to bed after a chapter of Despereaux (oh, you valiant, little mouse.)  I laid in bed, thought about going to sleep, but instead, pulled out my laptop and finished typing an article (in the dark, sandwiched in-between Paige and Brynne.  Cozy.)  I must have been inspired.

Happy Writing to you!