Monday, March 26, 2012

Whispering Pines Retreat

Whispering Pines conference center
I'm home from my second Whispering Pines event, a small and intimate writing retreat held at URI's Alton Jones campus conference center. The retreat is sponsored by SCBWI. With rambling paths and footbridges leading to rustic cabins tucked into piney woods by a lake, the setting could hardly be better.

URI's Alton Jones campus in West Greenwich, RI
The mentors included illustrator Suzanne Bloom, agent Andrea Cascardi, author Jo Knowles,  Delacorte editor Michelle Poploff, author and school-visit guru, Alexis O'Neill, and multi-talented Charlesbridge editor, Yolanda Scott. The mentors did individual critiques, gave presentations, ate meals with the participants, and critiqued anonymous first-page submissions in front of a big stone fireplace each evening.

Of course, I sketched while I took notes, as I do at all meetings. It's my way of paying attention.
(My apologies to the "sketchees" for all poor and less-than-flattering likenesses.)

Sketch by Cheryl Kirk Noll

Here's what the folks really look like.

Mentors Alexis, Michelle, Andrea(hidden), Yolanda, Jo and Suzanne

For more information about the individual presentations, you can check out author Jo Knowles' journal post. By the way, Jo's presentation was my favorite... so insightful and thought-provoking. That said, I enjoyed and learned something from each and every presenter.

It was a especially great to have Suzanne Bloom as a mentor. I've known her for years, thanks to the good folks at Highlights for Children, and it was a treat to spend time with her.

Suzanne did this pastel painting during the conference, and generously offered to donate it for fundraiser auction.
Just a few of Suzanne's books.

As if all of this wasn't enough, the participants make this retreat feel warm, caring and nurturing. About half of them are published (the rest pre-published!), and a handful of illustrators (and author/illustrators) attend.

Author-illustrators Barbara Johansen Newman and Carlyn Beccia, author Julia Boyce, and author-illustrator Liz Goulet Dubois.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt leads the events with games and giveaways. Not only did I win a signed copy of a book by participant Anika Denise, illustrated by her husband Christopher, but I also won a can of octopus!!!

After getting quite a laugh, I was informed that the octopus was accompanied by a 10 page critique by agent Andrea Cascardi. Now, that was quite a thrill.

Lynda was celebrating her debut middle-grade novel, One for the Murphy's, which is coming out this spring. 

 To add frosting to the cake, a fellow instructor and two students from the RISD-CE Children's Book Illustration certificate program attended. 

Brook Gideon, Cheryl Kirk Noll, instructor Marlo Garnsworthy, and Sue Fraser-Perotta.
To the mentors, to the warm and wonderful participants, to Lynda and Mary Pierce and all the folks who organize the event, to the cooks and staff at Alton Jones, to those who contribute baskets and books for the auction and give-aways, I offer a hearty word of thanks and appreciation. 

Jo Knowles worded it perfectly in her journal when she said, "I have never come across a group that was more consistently caring, supportive, friendly and, well, LOVING." 

Thanks and hugs to everyone. 


  1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I feel like I was there!

  2. What a great review of our weekend! And I loved the pictures. How I wish we were all back there! My dinner tonight certainly won't compare to last night. (But it won't compare to octopus either ... thank goodness. )

    Thanks so much for sharing this.

  3. Hey, Cheryl! I loved your post! Such wonderful reminders of a great weekend. As always--great to see you!!!

  4. Wonderful! I hope to do this someday, too. :)

  5. Great photos! Thanks so much for your very kind words. :-)


  6. I can tell it was great fun, Cheryl--lucky you! Enjoyed the report!

  7. Great post, Cheryl! Whispering Pines is such a beautiful place. Loved your sketches, as always.

  8. I enjoyed reading your post, Cheryl! It put me right back there. :) I miss it already, the camraderie especially--and the food too, of course. (Coming home to my own cooking is always such a bitter disappointment. ;))

    Great to see you again!