>Happy Birthday Pen and Palette!

>Pen and Palette is ONE YEAR OLD TODAY! My very first post was August 6, 2007. I’ve been planning a blog party, and decided to mainly post photos from throughout the year. Kind of a virtual party–if I was having a party for my blog, these would be my guests. They are the “stars” from my first year of blogging.

First of all, let me say THANK YOU to the almost 17,000 folks who have read my blog this past year! I’ve been watching the hit-counter, and the pace is quickening, which is very exciting. And a quick note to those who have signed up to receive blog posts by email: I just recently (Friday) changed the setting so that only the first paragraph or so of the blog now arrives in your email box, which I hope will encourage you to CLICK ON THE LINK to my blog and read it here, rather than in your email box. (That way it gets counted on the hit counter, and also you can see the rest of the blog and not just one post.)

So… let the games begin! My first guest of honor is Joshilyn Jackson. Joshilyn is the one who encouraged me to start this blog, one year ago, at the first ever Mississippi Writers Guild Conference in Clinton, Mississippi. I wasn’t even sure what a blog was then. In a workshop she gave on marketing your writing, she said writers should create a blog as pre-marketing, and have a web site in place by the time their first book goes to press. She’s got a great blog, “Faster Than Kudzu,” that you might want to check out. (and you can link to her web site from there) This is Joshilyn and me at Pentimento Books in Clinton, Mississippi, during the conference.
Next guest of honor is my best friend, Daphne Davenport, who has encouraged me at every stage of my development as an artist, writer, wife, mother, friend….. all those things that matter so much in life. Here’s Daphne and me (left) at her mother’s lake house outside Little Rock on the 4th of July weekend …

…and Daphne with me and Katherine, my next guest of honor. KatherineThames is one of my Goddaughters, fellow writer and writing workshop attendee, and fellow member of our Memphis women’s writers’ critique group. The three of us went to the Creative Nonfiction Workshop in Oxford together this past February-March.

Other ladies: in the Memphis writers group are Sue Brownlow, (that’s sue, left, with Katherine)

Sarah Parker, right,

and Tery Bernadini, left.

Speaking of critique groups, the Yoknapatawpha Writers Group started one year ago in Oxford, springing out of the 2007 Yoknapatawpha Summer Writers Workshop. These guests of honor are all members of this group that is trying to make me a better writer: here we are at our very first meeting in September, 2007: Herman King, Patti Trippeer, Tom Hamilton, me and Doug McLain. I LOVE YOU GUYS!

Mentors who are also honored guests (in addition to Joshilyn) include Cassandra King, whose book, The Sunday Wife inspired me to start writing, and Beth Ann Fennelly, who’s taught at both Yoknapatawpha workshops I’ve attended, and shared her time before and after various readings she’s given in Oxford and Memphis.

And to Beth Ann’s husband, Tom Franklin, who is also amazingly generous with his time and encouragement to fledgling (and thirsty) writers! (This is at the Neshoba County Fair….)

Neil While… who helped me with my book proposal for my memoir-in-progress and continues to be as source of inspiration and encouragement. Here’s Neil, at the Creative Nonfiction Conference in Oxford this past February/March

Scott Morris…one of the instructors at the 2008 Yoknapatawpha Writers Workshop in Oxford this past June, who has also been a source of encouragement and help as I move forward with the process of querying agents for my book. Scott’s also leaving Oxford… for California! Okay, now I must say something to Scott: having spent a few hours looking over my blog posts from the past year, I agree with what you said up on the balcony at City Grocery in July–I do have a great life. Thank you for pointing that out, but also for acknowleding that one can have both a terrible and wonderful life at the same time because, well, because that’s how real life is.

John Floyd… (who has a new book out, Midnight, available here!) who was an instructor at the Missisisppi Writers Guild Conference in August, 2007 and taught one of the workshops I attended there. John critiqued one of my short stories for the workshop, and has continued to give of his time, expertise and encouragement.

Neal Walsh… who was an instructor at both the 2007 and 2008 YWCs in Oxford, and has also been a source of inspiration. Neil was in the MFA program at Ole Miss when he led the critique sessions at the 2007 workshop, and then returned from teaching in the MFA program at LSU to teach at the workshop in 2008. This is Neal, reading from one of his published stories at Boure’s during Open Mic one night after a day of critique sessions at the conference.

Also, author-cousins Delaune Michel and Andre Dubus III, who were both a delight to meet at their readings in Oxford and Jackson. This is Delaune and me at Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi…

And Andre with me and writing buddy, Patti, at Andre’s reading at Off Square Books during Camp Square Books.

Oh, and the party wouldn’t be complete with Lee Gutkind and Dinty Moore (left, with Neal White at Off Square Books) instructors at the Creative Nonfiction Workshop I attended this past year… This is Lee (right) introducing speakers at the conference in February.

And Kathy Rhodes and Sarah Einstein, fellow writing buddies at those workshops. This is me with Sarah (left) and Kathy (center) at a cocktail party during the Creative Nonfiction Conference in Oxford in March.
Okay, a girl doesn’t live by writing alone… there’s also painting. For me, mostly icons. My most recent workshop was in March, with these folks completing an icon of The Angel of the Lord. So, my helper, Kerry Sneed, is surely a guest of honor at my P & P Party, as I can’t imagine teaching workshops without her help! (That’s Kerry and me, below, left, near the end of teaching a workshop at St. John)

And the children at St. John Orthodox Church’s Vacation Church School this summer embraced iconography as they learned about “Windows to Heaven” during a weeklong program. I was invited to lead an activity with them one morning, and they were eager learners.
The Mixed Bag Ladies, hosted by another Goddaughter, Julie Stanek, had a short run (6 months?) but a great time painting together at Julie’s a few times last year. Left to right: Jenna, Sue, me, Julie.

Oh, and of course I’d invite another special friend, Sally Elliott to the party. Sally is a tremendous editor and soul friend this past year. Here she is up in Alaska, where she used to live.

Other party-goers that need to be invited to my blog party are my fellow St. John Dinner Club members from this past year… especially Ethan and Claire Van Drimmelen(congratulations to Ethan and Claire on the birth of their daughter, Zoe Anne, on Monday!!!) hosts par excellent.. who came up with the clever 50s dinner party we had earlier in the year…

which inspired these crazy 50s costumes…
and martinis… that’s Ethan in red

and mashed potatoes… ready cooks Caitlyn and Claire…

Our friends Father Paul and Sissy Yerger from Clinton, Mississippi would certainly be invited to the party… they were our traveling mates for our trip to Greece last October.

And of course my FAMILY have been guests on my blog all year… my sweet husband has showed up quite a few times… in all of the “hats” he wears: husband and father (Bill, Dad), priest (Father Basil), and physician (Doctor William Cushman). This is us celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary on June 13 at Roustica Restaurant, just around the corner from our house in midtown Memphis.

And my children….
My son, Jon, with his friends Elizabeth and Will Crabb … before his last tour of Iraq, from which he returned safely just a couple of weeks ago! Here they are at the River City Arts Fest, in downtown Memphis.

And my son Jason and his new wife, See, who live in Colorado. You can read about the visit Beth and made out to meet See in May here.

And my daughter, Beth, who has been on several beach trips with us and also spent the summer at home doing an architecture internship… she returns to UT Knoxville in a couple of weeks to continue grad school in architecture.
And my mother, “Granny” Effie, and her best friend, Elizabeth who live at Ridgeland Pointe Assisted Living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. You can read my recent post about Effie and Elizabeth here, which has links to previous posts about their adventures in assisted living!
So much to celebrate! Like Caitlyn and Erin and Keetha, who faithfully leave comments (and have great blogs themselves!)
Sunday I said goodbye to my Goddaughter, Hannah and her husband Matthew Snowden, who left for Pennsylvania Monday. Lots of tears on Sunday … but now hopes for a great future for them. Here we are a couple of years ago at their wedding reception, which seems like yesterday.

Sunday was also my Godson, Damon Boile’s birthday, and we celebrated with dinner at the Hunt Phelon Inn and Restaurant, and later at Damon and Madeleine’s house with a sorbet and hat party, featured in my last post.

So… thanks for celebrating and sharing the journey with me! WHO KNEW blogging would be such a joy! I can’t wait to begin another year of posting. And I’d love for you to leave a comment (click on “comments” below and follow the directions) or send an email to my new email address: sjcushman at g mail dot com …. you know how to configure it, but maybe the spam widgets don’t!

Birthday wishes? As I blow out Pen and Palette’s virtual candles, my birthday wish is that everyone’s wishes come true…. books get written and published, paintings get painted and sold, buildings get designed and built, families grow closer, soldiers come home safely from war, marriages are blessed, babies are born healthy, and mystery is recovered in every aspect of our lives. Big breath. Wwwwwhhhhhhooooooooooosssssshhhhhh! That was easy (only one candle this year!)
Please share!

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