Citrus-O-Rama! or, a Trip to Logee’s

There is a wonderful old greenhouse in Connecticut called Logee’s that has been open since 1892. It is one of the few places here in New England where you can walk through the door…


…and instantly feel like you have entered a tropical rainforest. It makes for a great day trip when you are totally sick of cold weather (which always seems to hold on juuuust a little too long around here).


It doesn’t matter what time of year you go, there are always things in full bloom.

I was on a citrus mission this day.


For unexplained reasons, I have always wanted to have my own orange trees, or lemon trees, or lime trees. This is going back to the time I was 10 or so. Maybe it IS explained, actually. I won a trip to Florida/Disney World when I was this age, and the sheer tropicality of Florida made a big impression on me, I guess.



The 100-year old Wonder Lemon tree at Logee’s is amazing-it’s comfortably growing right into the ground of the greenhouse, and seems to always be producing gigantic lemons (like up to 5 pounds!).

That’s Eric, The Jungle Boy.


Here’s my little box of citrus (plus one orchid), ready to come home with me.

And here are my new studio inhabitants!
The biggest one I had gotten a while back- it’s a Kaffir Lime. Now it is joined by a baby Grapefruit, a Key Lime, a Buddha’s Hand, a Meyer Lemon, a Sunquat, and an Australian Finger Lime. Plus one Salu Spot orchid. So far, they’re all doing well and have new growth. I knew from the Kaffir Lime that the studio was a good place to grow stuff. They add a nice living touch to the studio too. And hopefully some oxygen. We spend a lot of time in here!




Words can’t describe how much I love this old wooden puzzle, recently bought at a local antique joint.
Have mercy! Why don’t they make ’em like this anymore? 


Here’s a pretty typical scene from the studio…Old Georgia (she’s 19) is sitting on a stack of books, waiting for me to flinch, breathe, or move in any way, so she can divert my attention to the kitchen.
She doesn’t remember anymore when she’s been fed. She gets fed constantly.
Thank goodness for those little cans of food they make now! 


When she is not eating or anticipating my every move, she is sleeping.
Today she has been dressed in a jaunty new cap and scarf by one of my kids.
It turns out that American Girl clothes fit cats pretty nicely, too. 

Whispering Pines 2008

I left my usual life behind for a few days over the weekend, and retreated to the woods for the Whispering Pines Writer’s Retreat. The location of this event is truly remote, so it’s easy to immerse yourself in both nature and writing, or at least talking about writing. 


The retreat opened with a First Pages panel, whereby participants’ first pages of their current manuscripts are read aloud, and then discussed by the writer and editor mentors. Here they are:


That’s writer Mark Peter Hughes, Charlesbridge editor Emily Mitchell, and Candlewick editor Kaylan Adair. They did a bang-up job of critting the story beginnings, being truthful yet positive.


Someone in this group is probably sweating it out while Lynda reads their First Page…

The next morning was rainy, so the pines were not whispering (which they do on a nice day), but whimpering, maybe.


The weather didn’t interfere with the great sessions, though, or the GREAT food that gets served seemingly all the time. It is easy to get used to gourmet meals served continuously, without having to actually cook or wash the dishes. But I digress.

Emily Mitchell was up first. 

Emily reads. She chose some clear examples of strong voice, which reinforced a lot of what came up during the First Pages panel. She thinks voice is the most essential, driving part of the story.When you start tuning in to what attracts you to a book and makes you want to read more, you start hearing voices, for sure. I really feel like I have a better understanding of this concept than ever before.   


Next up was Mark Peter Hughes, author of I Am the Wallpaper and Lemonade Mouth.  He gave a pens-on workshop about dialogue, and how it can effectively move things along in a story, create tension, etc. It’s great stuff to know. After this, I definitely already had mental updates I wanted to make to my current book text.

Thinking makes me hungry.
All we had to do was follow this path back to the Lodge…


And voila! The Lodge:


The neverending banquet was inside. I didn’t get any good food pictures, but the fine folks of Whispsering Pines have never made a bad meal, as far as I can tell.
Here are some scenes from the dining zone:


Lucia, Mary, and Laurie- bon appetit! 


Kaylan, Moi, and Ileneslainte!


Barb and Jan…and pie. Oh, the pie… 
Back at the Laurel Lodge, Lynda Hunt presented the helpers with weird things from her Bag o’ Fun.
Here is Lynda, Lucia (a.k.a. the “Partner in Crime”), Mary and Jan (the Basket Gals), and Barb (The Power Point Princess).  


These gals are a LOT of fun- they helped make it the casual, fun-yet-functional event that it is. Bravo. 

Not pictured: an evening of wild writing-induced debauchery that lingered until morning.Well, that’s what COULD have been going on, for all I know. I went to bed at midnight after a lot of chatting, laughing, and Cadbury eggs.

Morning came early, but the sun was out!


Kaylan Adair from Candlewick presented first on Sunday morning. She gave us an excellent overview of how things run at Candlewick, which seems pretty different from most of the other publishers out there. Different in a good way. It reminds me a bit of the Highlights company, which also operates on it’s own terms and manages to put out well-regarded work.


That’s a picture of her box o’slush behind her.I like this picture- it looks like Kaylan is channeling the angst-ridden spirit of the slush pile!


Next up was my pal Ilene Richard, the illustrator mentor. I have known Ilene for years now, but I still found out lots of new fun facts about her (like, I didn’t know she did jewelry design for 15 years!). I also hadn’t seen a bunch of her art pieces. She’s a prolific gal, and I think she’s on the verge of some big stuff. She read one of her dummy books (which I believe began at last year’s WP), and it is lookin’ GOOD! Best of all, she was not defeated by her own PowerPoint presentation!

Here’s a nice, formal picture of Ilene, Mark, Kaylan, and Emily in front of the fireplace. How rustic!


Mark clearly doesn’t know what to do with his hands.

And then, it was over. I went home with a splitting headache, but after it cleared, I was left with a clear case of inspiration!

Here are some lovely parting shots of the property:


If you are feeling nostalgic for WhisperingPines 2007, click here