The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Family by blood and tenderness

All the boys in this picture from Kurtz camping trips past are young men, now.  (My brother Chris–the one on the bottom of the pile–is forever young.)  But the family gatherings haven’t stopped…and neither has the camping.  I’m just home from a trip to Portland where I spent a week of companionship with my mom, while my forever-young brother and his family (who are moving in with Mom) went on their annual camping trip.

Our family’s love of camping was born in Ethiopia, where camping was quite the production.  Luckily, my dad–the one with the outside genes–was always ready to energetically organize everybody and everything.  He was willing to pack and unpack and get a crew going on putting up the tent while another crew (with six kids, you can have more than one crew) started supper preparations.  No lovely little camper like the one Lanie falls in love with and longs to camp in!  Still, my dad did come up with scheme after scheme to make things easier for my mom, the one with the inside genes.   And all the efforts to get the six of us out into the wide, wonderful world turned all of us into the kinds of people who take our own kids–and now grandkids–camping, thus starting the cycle all over again.  I love that about us.  It’s one of the things that knits the Kurtz family together into one sprawling…well…family.

While I was in Portland, I also had an unexpected and glorious chance to introduce my reader mom to two of my writer buddies: Deb Wiles (who lives in Atlanta but just happened to be out in the Northwest) and Deborah Hopkinson, who lives in Portland now.  More than ten years ago, the three of us roomed together at a big International Reading Association conference.  Three books came out of our late, late night talks and brainstormings.

We love to think of artists as solitary geniuses, sitting alone in their lonely garrets.  The life of a writer does involve lots of garret-hood in oh so many ways.  But writer friends not only make the crashing solitude less overwhelming, they often jar bits of genius loose we can’t manage to reach on our own.  It’s one of the most precious things about the Vermont College MFA in children’s literature: the writers who suffered with us through hot/cold boot camps of the residencies and became our friends as well as writing community. 

Family by blood.

I’m grateful for all my siblings, for their energies and enthusiasms and that we share so many of those, from camping to reading and writing.  I’m touched by their generosity to me, the grasshopper who has been busy fiddling and not always storing up the grain that I need for the long shivery winter.

Family by choice.  My writer friends are also generous…and also fun.  I love hanging around with them, too.  I love it when our interests overlap.  This morning, I spent a great time with Jackie Briggs Martin’s new blog on writing and endangered animals.

Blest be the ties that bind ths big swirling world into one family.  By blood.  By adoption.  By friendship choices.  And more, more, more.

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