A week ago Sunday another great class of graduates launched themselves out from the Hamline Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, marking the conclusion of eleven days jammed with lectures, readings, workshops, and an intense focus on what comprises good writing for children.

Usually after a residency I go home and take to my bed to catch up on sleep. But this time, thanks to good friends, I headed up to an island to be with yet more children’s writers. Here we write during the day, share and comment on our writing in the evenings, cook together, swim, canoe, read. I am one of those who claim to be writing when it might look as though I’m lying in a hammock or paddling a canoe.

And I do write. I listen to that silence that Marilyn Nelson talked about in her fabulous presentation at Hamline. On the island I listen to the silence of waves and wind and loons and birdsong, the silence of storms and heat haze and cattails and lichen. The silence of ten thousand books and ten fine writers who don’t hesitate to offer their work for discussion or shovel out the outhouse at the end of the week.

I never know what will arise out of that silence, but something always does. Butt in chair, words on page, we write our stories. And that’s good. That’s what we do. But don’t forget the other side of writing. Find yourself some silence. Listen.