After all the prep work of designing and making our Superhero costumes, updating my book, and illustrating the superhero page, I was ready to go to the Annual Highlights Illustrators' Party. Sort of. On the day of departure, my daughter was getting over a nasty bug, my sister was suffering from a nasty bug, and I was turning into a nasty bug after a good, long, 3.5 hour night sleep, and I saw that my lovely weekend was quickly fading into a lovely dream. My Plan B for help in the child-care department, my illustrator friend, and her husband, who was also to attend, was sick.
So Plan C was in motion. Now post lunchtime, daughter was doing well, no symptoms, energized and playful. There was still hope. I called Highlights to find out what other options there might be for an attendee with a little one. "Why not bring her to the conference?" The idea seemed impossible to me, but it was like an official stamp of approval, and I thought, "What's the worse that could happen? If she decides to have a meltdown, I could just leave." I had nothing to lose. So I geared up.
Simultaneously, I put a call in to my friend, via voicemail, at the off-chance I might still get some help. I offered the opportunity for a getaway, but with a childcare clause in the deal. By some miracle, my friend called back just in time with an "OK!" That's when everything fell right into place.
When I and the little one arrived in Honesdale, we headed straight to our assigned quarters: the cabins at Beach Lake. It was perfect—two bedrooms and a living room—home away from home. We had the trademark, homegrown, gourmet dinner at The Barn that evening, on the Boyds Mills farm. I caught up with an old friend and wonderful illustrator Laura Jacques, and headed back to the cabin to await my friend's arrival. Thanks to the separate rooms, the little one got to sleep while I waited to greet my friend.
The farm excursion for the families (Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Ward)
At the conference in The Barn on Saturday, we were presented with the company's rich history as a family company, philosophy, and plans for growth by Editor-in-Chief, Chris Cully, and a few of Highlights' Editors and Art Directors. They proposed numerous opportunities for work and made us Illustrators feel pretty special. We did a bit of sketching for auction, portfolio sharing, greeted more familiar faces, all of us gushing over each others' work. The food was stellar as usual (truly one of the biggest selling points of the weekend, not that they really have to sell us on an all expenses weekend).
Painted pumpkins by the Illustrators' Jrs (Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Ward)
The little one and my friend were off at a local farm enjoying chickens and songs and painting pumpkins. She was so exhausted by nap time, she didn't nap. So she burned that overtired energy as a superhero, having a blast kicking around in her boots, flapping her cape, and running every which way. The day was concluded by dinner and the traditional square dance. And dance we did.
Superhero Bash (Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Ward)
Sunday brought a horse-drawn carriage ride, another glorious meal, and more delightful conversations. By the end of the weekend, the nasty bugs were history and I was motivated to work. We came away receiving a refreshing, optimistic message, from a company worth cheering for in a downturn economy. My friend was exhausted thanks to the little one, though she still enjoyed the time away. After years of enthusiastically cheering us on, we thank you, Highlights, Superhero of Illustrators and children everywhere!
(Photo: Courtesy of Heidi Ward)