Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Finding a Magic Island at the Circus of the Arts

Left: Laura Vaughan and I co-chaired this year's conference. See that fuzzy boa she's wearing? One of our members knit a boa for every attendee -- in an assortment of funky colors!
Photo by Helene LeBrun, Gainesville Branch, NLAPW

Clowns cavorted, word acrobats wrote guerilla poetry, improv artists created theater, jewelry sprang from the imagination, and music filled the air -- all at the Florida State Association of the National League of American Pen Women's 2009 Biennial Conference, Circus of the Arts!

Held November 19-22 at the Hyatt Regency in Sarasota, the conference allowed members -- professional women writers, artists, and composers of many types -- to connect with colleagues from around the state.

As conference co-chairs, Laura Vaughan, from the Daytona Beach branch, and I, from the Clearwater branch, reached across the state to organize the conference, held in a third location in the county south of where I live.

Talk about a three-ring circus!

The emails flew back and forth, and women from other parts of the state contributed ideas and elbow grease. In the end, it was so worth it.
One of our Clearwater Branch co-president's, Charrie Hazard Moscardini, displays the poster, featuring branch activities, we created for the conference's Parade of Presidents. Photo by Helene LeBrun, Gainesville Branch, NLAPW

We shared ideas about how to market our work, learned how to make our Web sites roar like a lion, and listened to musical compositions ranging from symphonies to songs for children. Our members-only contests drew about 250 entries total, and we distributed about $2,800 in prize money.

So what did I get out of the conference?

Aside from some new friends and great ideas, my most serendipitous moment came Saturday evening when the hotel miscounted the places they set. Instead of setting up six tables of 10, they set up six tables of eight -- needless to say, we had a bit of confusion when our state and national presidents and a dozen or so other members walked in to the dinner and had no seats.

Good humor prevailed, however, and the hotel hurriedly brought in an extra table and squished in other place settings at the already seated tables. But it meant that a few of us found ourselves with unexpected dinner partners.

I joined a table comprised of women from the Sarasota and Southwest Florida branches. On my right, was a woman who, for 18 months, sailed much of the world in a boat built by her husband when he retired. Imagine!

But it was while I was chatting with the woman on my left that I felt my stomach do one of those "Oh my" flip-flops. Readers of this blog will know of my passion for children's literature -- and this woman, Elizabeth Waterston (not the actress), turned out to be co-editor of The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery (five volumes).

Yes, THE L. M. Montgomery who wrote Anne of Green Gables.

Waterston also wrote Magic Island, published in 2008, a readers' guide to Montgomery's work.

Oh my, oh my, oh my.

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