Round these here parts, you can’t throw a stick into a bar without hitting a writer.

Or, in my experience today, a coffee shop.

I live in a land lousy with writers. We are not just the land of 10,000 lakes: we are the land of 10,000 novelists.

Indeed, just in my random little neighborhood, I know of seven whose houses are in walking distance, and another twenty who are within a five minute driving distance. And these are just the people I know and enjoy hanging out with.

The other day, I met up with a bunch of kidlit author-types from the greater Twin Cities area at a pretty cool bar in Saint Paul. I love these people, I really do. They are funny and sassy and salty-mouthed, three things that I always appreciate in a person. They are also quick-witted and furiously smart, which  means, of course, that I’m always about nine steps behind in any given conversation (childbirth, alas, has significantly impacted my IQ), but I love it anyway.

At this particular bar night, the always-lovely Erin Downing (author of Kiss It and Prom Crashers) informed me that the Caribou Coffee near my house has magical powers.

Well, that’s not how she put it. She just said that she got a lot of work done there while her two youngest kids were at preschool. This, of course, I interpreted as having magical powers. Because right now, getting work done seems magical.

And you know what? I went over there, sat down, installed the good old Mac Freedom to keep my sorry self off the shiny, shiny Internets, and know what I discovered? That coffee shop is magic. MAGIC I TELL YOU! I’ve gotten more done in the last three days than I have in the last month. I think I may go there every day, if I don’t destroy my stomach lining in the process from so much dang coffee.

Today, when I arrived at the coffee shop, I ran into Ms. Downing, and of course it was wonderful.

“I’m so glad you told me about this coffee shop,” I said to her. “It has magical powers. This Caribou is MAGIC.”

The girl who was ringing me up stared at me, open mouthed. “It is?” she said. “I work in a magical Caribou? I had no idea.”

And I think I made her day.

One of the things about this weird job of writing books and selling books and hoping people like your books, is that it can be tricky to find colleagues. And so we work alone in our insufferable insecurities and annoying neuroses. This, alas, is attractive to no one.

When I was writing The Mostly True Story Of Jack I had no writing group (except for during one, small bit of it, but I couldn’t keep it going) and I really didn’t know any writers very well. And the ones I did  know, I was too shy to reach out to. And so I worked alone, writing only during the hours of four and six in the morning, and showing my work to no one, until I finally got an agent.

There were times, after my book sold, that my work as a writer was so divorced from my everyday life – none of my friends were writers, it was hard to talk about at playgroups or at the park – that I started to wonder if I had secretly made the whole thing up.

After all, I’m pretty good at making things up.

One of the things that I’ve tried to do over the last year is to forge stronger bonds with the writers of this community – both my physical community of the Twin Cities, as well as the tribes of cool writers who form little bands online. Because this work is hard, and because we need colleagues, and we need to blow off steam after work sometimes, and we need the support of caring co-workers.

And sometimes, someone needs to tell us about magical coffee shops. Because something needs to give us a little kick in the pants every once in a while. And  magical coffee shops are as good a kick as any.

Second Story!

Well, not that kind of story. It’s the Second Story Reading series at The Loft – a literary arts organization in Minneapolis. If anyone’s available, you should come. Phyllis Root is reading. Phyllis Root!

She’ll be reading from this book: http://www.boydsmillspress.com/media/hfc/bmp/coverimages/medium/978-1-59078-583-6.jpg Doesn’t it look marvelous! Don’t you want to purchase it instantly? Of course you do.

Though you may know her work already from this book: http://www.neatsolutions.com/Images/Products/JKL/kiss_the_cow.jpg

or this book: http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1179122658l/878261.jpg

or this book: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51CQDV0G7HL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

In any case, I think she’s marvelous. I never knew she wrote a book for middle grade readers, and I’m excited to hear her read. You should come!

Here’s the details:

Second Story, the Loft’s reading series for writers of young adult and children’s literature, curated by Swati Avasthi and Heather Bouwman, presents authors Phyllis Root and Eileen Beha.

Eileen Beha spends summers vacationing on Prince Edward Island, where she has a cottage near the quaint village of Victoria-by-the-Sea. A former middle school principal, Eileen lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and two terriers, Tango and Louise. Tango: The Tale of an Island Dog (Bloomsbury, 2009) is her first book for middle grade readers.

Phyllis Root has been writing for children for thirty years and has published over forty books, including picture books, middle grade novels and non-fiction, including Big Momma Makes the World, which won the Boston Globe Horn Book Award.  She teaches in the Hamline University Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.

Recent books include Big Belching Bog and Lilly and the Pirates

Target Performance Hall
Open Book
1011 Washington Avenue South
Minneapolis MN 55415

The Loft Children’s and Young Adult Literature Conference

Thanks to everyone who was so kind as to come to my Magic and Fantasy class at the Loft yesterday. I seriously thought I’d only have two students, and was woefully unprepared for the number of folks who came. Actually, I was woefully un-prepared in general. Or, maybe overprepared. A one hour class is a weird time period, in my opinion, and was inadequate to be able to accomplish the things that I wanted to accomplish. Still, I hope I was marginally helpful. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting the writing exercises as well as some of the further reading that didn’t make it into the actual class due to time constraints.

I’m off to my kids’ piano recital right now, where I am sure to glow and beam with maternal pride, happiness and joy. Happy Sunday everyone!