I like to have something to look forward to at the beginning of the year to help get me through the ordeal of the holidays. If you're a member of the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, looking forward to the 2008 Whispering Pines Writers' Retreat on Feb. 29 through March 2 could be what you need to make the month of December bearable.
The author mentor at the 2008 event will be Mark Peter Hughes. You remember Mark Peter Hughes. I was obsessed with him this summer, not because I'm a fan of his books (I've never read any) but because he quit his job this year to focus on writing full time and then took off on a cross-country promotional tour with his family. I was expecting trauma, if not on the trip, then when he got home and had to face writing full-time without a visible means of regular support. If that's the case, he's been keeping it to himself. No sobbing or chest pounding at his website. Maybe he'll talk about it at Whispering Pines.
Ilene Richard will serve as the illustrator mentor. Kaylan Adair of Candlewick Press and Emily Mitchell of Charlesbridge Publishing will attend as editor mentors.
Another Thing That Could Make December Bearable: The prospect of winning a book. Forget about finding jewelry, stock, iPods, or computer innards under your tree. You could find an e-mail from me on Christmas Day telling you you've won My Life Among the Aliens.