Saturday, July 25, 2009

Country mouse visits the nuclear reactor Part One

Home. Where Amy, Linus and I live. When my wonderful nieces visit, they call the Legislature building the fairy castle. Especially because in the evenings (at least in the winter) it is covered with white Christmas lights. This is part of Victoria's inner harbor.

About a week ago I got back from an amazing week-long journey. My brain has been so completely full and my body so tired, that I haven't yet had the courage to write about it yet. What an adventure.

My destination was the 10th anniversary Northwest Children's Book Conference at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. I've attended twice before and both times made a huge impact on me as a writer. Linda Zuckerman is the conference director and for ten years she has conducted this incredible labor of love. The talent of the faculty, both as professionals in the children's book industry and as teachers, is par with any writing conference out there.

As I've mentioned before, the other incredible aspect of this conference is that you get to "live" for five days with the faculty, sharing meals with them, attending presentations, critique groups, and joining them for stunning walks around the beautiful campus. As well as pajama parties and pillow fights. David Gifaldi has a wicked right hand feathered wollop, I know that from experience. Well, maybe I made that last bit up, but they sure SHOULD have pj parties and pillow fights. Who wouldn't want Ann Whitford Paul to tuck them in and read them a lullaby to fall asleep too?

But, I'm getting way ahead of myself. Because the proper telling of my adventure starts right here in Victoria, British Columbia.

I hate to pack. I'm allergic to it. I despise it. Abhor. Am prejudiced against it. Scared of it.

I'm also a worrier. Nice to meet you. Before trips like this I spend many sleepless nights worrying over everything, especially packing. My other issue is that I'm a dilly-dallier, according to Amy. She also just informed me I fiddle-fart around. Guilty.

Not Amy. When she gets a "hair up her @$$," she gets things done. Like, NOW. A dirty kitchen can take me weeks to clean, Amy knocks it out in minutes. Like a tornado.

So, when Amy saw me floundering in my packing-induced depression, she stepped in and, lickety-split, had me packed and organized. Packing. Done. She even had my entire journey planned out to the minute and handed me my detailed itinerary, with days to spare. I didn't know what to do with myself.

This is important because I was trying something different. Normally, when I head down to
Portland I drive. But because Amy had to work and had to worry about Linus too, I was attempting this trip sans car. And not being the most independent fellow in the world, was admittedly nervous and excited.

The first stage of my journey, Amy and Linus dropped me off at Victoria's inner harbor, at the Coho Ferry, also known as the Black Ball Ferry

Me being a big boy. Ready for adventure and wearing my trademarked gap tooth smile.

The Coho ferry crosses the Strait of Juan de Fuca, takes about an hour and a half. It is quite a trip since to the North is Vancouver Island with its stunning mountains. To the South, the Olympic Peninsula crowned by the magnificent Olympic Mountains and the jagged, snow-tipped Hurricane Ridge. West, if you kept going a long ways is the Pacific Ocean. East, the San Juan Islands and Whidbey Island, dwarfed by
Mount Baker and the Cascade Mountains behind. There's usually some kind of mysterious fog, making the Olympic Mountains look like a floating fairy kingdom.

You know you're in Victoria when you see these little water taxis.

And when you see these float planes.

They're called that because they're planes. That float.

And a fishing boat, salmon I think, heading past the jetty toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the United States, Washington, Port Townsend, Tacoma, and eventually Portland and Reed College.

My dad picked me up on the other side and drove me to my old home, about an hour away in homey Port Townsend for the night. After stuffing me with an incredible beef dinner, and getting a quick visit with my sister and brother-in-law, beautiful, sweet nieces, and my youngest smiley nephew, I tried to sleep knowing I was just getting started.

Stay tuned for the rest of my trip, including what the heck I'm talking about a nuclear reactor for, another two modes of transportation, and a bunch more stuff that will get other kid's book writers and illustrators all hot and bothered.

G-night. Or good morning when you'll likely be reading this.


  1. Ben, I love this update! And I love AMY. Can I borrow her, just for a little while?

  2. Oh my goodness! The Canadian literary version of "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!"

    Am really hoping you eventually made it...

  3. I'm pretty jealous you got to take a boat there. That's just freaking cool. I'm land locked. I can't take a boat anywhere.

  4. Yes you can Martha, but only YOU. Nobody else. Otherwise my life would fall apart. She'll be a real help with your post carnivore party dishes problems. She's really fast and accomplishes a ton. Now if you want quality, I'm your man. Slow as pigeon spit, but those will be the cleanest dishes you've ever eaten meatloaf on.

    Yes, which I think makes me John Candy... Hey, wait a sec. I'm really hoping I make it too. Unfortunately, I'm only like a few hours into my week long adventure. Better speed things up on my next post. Ah, who am I kidding.

    Yeah Natalie, it is fun. But this is just the first leg. Stay tuned. Fifteen points for Natalie for staying tuned. - 5 for not being able to take a boat anywhere. Yeah, negative points. That's how we roll on my blog Natalie. Though, being a ninja and all, it shouldn't slow you down much. You got a tub though right? Make a boat, float it. You'll get those five points back quick.

  5. Martha, how would you punctuate post carnivore party dishes problem?

    I'm betting a hyphen between post and carnivore or somewhere around there, and a comma or two, but I thought I'd leave it blank and get your deft hand in there.

  6. It's just sooooo beautiful. How do you get anything done, living in such a lovely place?

    (Still anxiously awaiting writer brawls.)


  7. Hey Ben, Glad to see you made it back home to Amy and Victoria. My own trip home to WW was uneventful, just long and butt-numbing. Thank goodness for the adrenaline still rushing through my body after that amazing week at the Children's Book Conference. Will be checking back to hear the rest of your tales about the conference and to see if you have "protected the [not so] innocent"!?!?

    Btw, guess who I will be meeting at the Inland Empire SCBWI regional conference in Spokane come September. Seems this gentleman shares your last name.

  8. oh, hyphens are murder...

    Let's see: Post-carnivore-party-dishes problem, because all of these words link up together, like sausages, to modify my problem.

    I am cooking like crazy. I made a roasted red pepper pasta salad, baked beans, cole slaw and am doing cornbread next to go with Adam's chicken, pulled pork and salmon.

    Anyone hungry? Come on down!

  9. The journey is worth the price of admission. I'm definitely along for the ride and expecting some cool fairy tales to pop up. I'm going to have to check out this amazing-sounding conference, too.
    PS--packing is a bottomless pit filled with scary things.

  10. hey Bookjunkee7, what is your writer-alter-ego name you used at Reed? There was a bunch of book junkies hopping around and I want to make sure I keep you straight! But have much fear, the "innocent" and their stories are in the hands of a fiction writer. I just can't resist lying. And who is going to be at the Inland Empire (Washington style) conference? Tom Watson, PGA golfer? Sherlock Holmes trusty sidekick Watson? Emma Watson, the actress who punched Malfoy in the face? WHO? Or is it Richard Watson or Jesse Watson? If it's one of those two, lock up your valuables and hang on to your knickers! (?)

    Anways, I think I know who bookjunkee7 is, but tell me or I'll lose more beauty sleep.

  11. Martha is so clever. Thanks Martha. Post-carnivore-party-dishes problem. And then you take the cake with... "... these words link up together, like sausages, to modify my problem. Right on cue too. You are awesome Martha. I remain extremely jealous of your writing chops. Maybe your pork chops too, but I haven't tried them yet.

    I think we'll be heading down early to Seattle. I can practically smell your feast through my screen. (another advantage of Macs, Martha, you can smell stuff) Roasted red pepper salad, baked beans, cole slaw, cornbread, chicken, pulled pork and salmon...

    Well, I'm knocking off for lunch. Y'all come back now y'hear. And if you haven't already, go read Martha's new SPOGG posts. Jamie T, or Cocoa Stomp, and Martha get a little punny. Martha has some other great posts too, like misspelled tattoos. Nothing better than permanently marking yourself flawed.

    Tricia, we're two packing-hating-peas in a pod (how's that Martha, see i can lurn). Stay tuned, if I don't have enough good stuff, I'll make up some juicy tidbits for you. And as for the conference, just wait. Bloody brilliant. My mandated Harry Potter-speak of the day (oui or non, Martha?)

  12. Hi Shelley! I don't. But it wouldn't be completely fair to blame it on my surroundings. I bear a little responsibility.

    (Ben desperately racking brain for writer brawls... well there is one.)

  13. I have always wanted to go the that conference but the timing has never worked out. Waiting on pins and needles for your recap!

  14. Oh that's how it is, huh? Fine, I'll make a land boat then. Sails and everything. Then I'll glide over the plains sans icky salty fish smell. Owned:P

  15. Sounds like a great trip. Glad Miz Amy got your bahonkus packed and there on time. :)