I'm just back from co-teaching Writing for Children and Teenagers (scroll) to an inspiring group of teachers and librarians as part of the 2005 Oklahoma Fall Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. The OAI offers a "series of weekend retreats for educators, professional artists, and amateur artists." The student body is comprised primarily of Oklahoma public school teachers.
Did you know there were mountains in Oklahoma? I didn't, and I have deep Okie ties. Granted, the mountains are not particularly big right now (more Ozark size), but I'm told they once towered higher than the Rockies. And talk about gorgous! The deep sunset color of the southwest, sparkling with--what else?--quartz.
Shana Rutz of OAI donor programs picked up me and my husband, author Greg Leitich Smith, at the newly (since I'd last visited) remodeled OKC Airport and shuttled us some two and a half hours (longer than the flights from Austin to Dallas and Dallas to OKC combined) to Lone Wolf.
We circled only a few minutes amid the winding pinkish red rock and came upon breathtaking Lake Altus-Lugert nestled within the range.
The rustic arts-and-crafts conference center includes a 700-seat performance hall, state-of-the-art darkroom, five studio pavilions, an outdoor amphitheater, the Beverly Badger Memorial Library, and the Arts and Conference Center. Inside, visitors find a tremendous collection of art, including murals by Mike Larsen, sculptures by Allan Houser and Jess Moroles, paintings by Joe Andoe and Don Nice, prints by Daniel Kiacz, sculptures by Menashe Kadishman, and works by OSAI students.
Greg and I arrived Thursday evening and then attended a faculty meeting and dinner.
We taught a class to a wonderful, witty, and goodnatured group on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning. We emphasized story structure, multiculturalism, humor, protagonists, antagonists, and getting published.
The students included Una Belle Townsend, debut author of Grady's In The Silo, illustrated by Bob Artley (Pelican, 2003)(see related activities). Una Belle was kind enough to give us a signed copy of her book.
On Friday evening, we gave a presentation to the entire Institute community. Faculty presentations took place that night and Saturday, and much of the group also participated on a show tunes sing-a-long Saturday night.
The other workshops were: Producing the Small Budget Musical; Intermediate Choral Voices; DanceSport; Monotype; and Arts Integration. Previous 2005 OFAI speakers included Tim Tingle, author of Walking the Choctaw Trail (Cinco Puntos, 2003)(read excerpt).
The workshops are highly recommended to Oklahoma teachers, and the OAI summer programs are highly recommended to Oklahoma teens.
On the road from Okie City to Quartz Mountain, I spotted a live armadillo running in a pasture.
Cynsational News & Links
Centennial Book Club: Made (Written) In Oklahoma by Oklahomans from author Molly Levite Griffis. A campaign to raise awareness of books by Oklahomans and their inclusion in public and/or school library collections.
On Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today edited by Lori M. Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005), Flamingnet Book Review writes: "a welcomed addition to short story collections and offers an introduction to respected writers whose other works will be equally inviting. I hardily recommend this book for middle and high school students who want to read of other adolescents' travels toward adulthood" and "'A Real-Live Blond Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate' [by Cynthia Leitich Smith] wins a prize for a title that tells almost all of the story while encouraging readers to examine stereotypes of appearance."
Oklahoma SCBWI: the Okie chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Anna Myers is the regional advisor.