Thank you, Kirby, for giving me the opportunity to write a post for your Friend Friday series. I know most of your guests write about their new books. And yes, I do have a new chapter book series out. It’s called the Haunted Library. You can read about that here. Today I’d rather write about enduring friendships and dreams.
The story begins with Kellye and me. She and I met at an Iowa SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) conference years ago and we “clicked” almost instantly. But because I lived in Iowa City and she lived in Des Moines, we never saw each other except at SCBWI conferences…until we started meeting for regular writer dates in Grinnell, Iowa, a small college town halfway between Des Moines and Iowa City.
I looked forward to those writer dates. Kellye was one of very few people I knew who could really dig in and talk about writing at the level I wanted to talk about it.
We’d meet at the coffee shop, go for lunch, maybe a walk afterwards. Sometimes we’d visit the bookstore or the library. Mostly we just talked. And we never covered everything we wanted to talk about, so we used to fantasize about spending the night in Grinnell. But we never did that.
Kellye and I met a lot of interesting people in Grinnell. Most memorable were the couple with the huge dogs (Kellye and I each have large dogs, too!); Dewey, the guy who sprinkled “magic fairy dust” on us (He was a character! I wonder which of us will use him in a book first?); and Colleen.
We met Colleen because of this car:
It was parked outside our coffee shop when we arrived one morning. I called it the “Buddy-mobile” because the whole car was like a tribute to Buddy, the main character from my Buddy Files books. We had to meet the person who drove this car! So we sat in the front window at the coffee shop and waited for the driver to return. When she did, we ran out of the coffee shop like a couple of crazy people.
We ended up having quite a conversation with the woman. Her name was Colleen. She wasn’t a writer, but she was an artist. Clearly a FUN artist, given the car! Yes, she had painted it herself. The dog was her dog, Kevin.
Like Kellye and me, Colleen was a dreamer. Her dream was to open a wine bar, but she said it the way I used to say, “I’d like to be a published writer.” Like I wasn’t sure I’d ever really do it.
But I did become a published writer. I told Colleen that if I could become a writer, she could open a wine bar. She just sort of smiled and shook her head. “You need money to open a wine bar,” she said.
I never expected to see Colleen again. Every time we were in Grinnell after that, we looked for her car, but we didn’t see it.
Then last spring my husband and I decided to move to Seattle.
Kellye and I planned one more writers date in Grinnell before I moved. I was feeling kind of sad when I drove into town that day. This would be my last writers date with Kellye!
I was completely on board with the move to Seattle. I wanted to go. And as recent empty nesters, it seemed like a good time to make a move like this. But I’m not sure I fully realized what all I was leaving behind until that day in Grinnell. I had some really good friends in Iowa. What if I never found such good friends in Seattle?
Well, I wasn’t gone yet. And I didn’t want our last writers date to be sad. So I pulled myself together and headed over to the coffee shop. As I was crossing the street, I couldn’t believe what I saw in the next block. The Buddy-mobile! (Or the Kevin-mobile, if you prefer.) It was parked in front of this storefront:
That is a wine bar!
Could it be Colleen’s wine bar? It had to be! Kellye and I walked over. There was a sign on the door announced a grand opening.
We pounded on the door and Colleen let us in. She remembered us. (Haha…of course she did!)
Again, Kellye and fantasized about staying overnight in Grinnell and being Colleen’s first customers, but there was just no way we could make that happen. Still, I was so very happy for Colleen. She’d done it! She’d taken the leap and followed her dream and now she was opening her wine bar. Somehow seeing Colleen on the verge of this brand new life gave me confidence that things were going to be all right for me when I got to Seattle, too.
I was sure that was the last time I’d ever see Colleen.
But the story doesn’t end there.
I’d planned a trip back to Iowa to celebrate the launch of my new series in late September of this year. I knew before I ever bought my plane ticket that Kellye is leaving Iowa now, too. She’s moving to Denver. I knew I’d see Kellye when I was back in Iowa, but given I’d moved away and now she was about to move away, too, I thought we needed have one more writers date in Grinnell. Only this time we would stay overnight like we’d always talked about.
So we did!
And we visited Colleen’s wine bar…
Colleen even joined us after her other customers left and we had a nice talk about friendship and dreams and how it’s not enough to simply want something, you have to go out and make things happen for yourself…whether those “things” are building a career as a children’s book author, opening a wine bar, or simply making friends in a new community.
I know better now than to say, “I’m never going to see Colleen again.” I have a feeling our paths will cross again. Maybe Kellye and I will even have another overnight in Grinnell? Maybe she’ll bring her new Denver friends and I’ll bring my new Seattle friends and we’ll all have a big party at Colleen’s wine bar?
Anything is possible…
Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of more than 40 books for children, including The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy, which won the 2010 Edgar Award for best juvenile mystery. Her new chapter book series, the Haunted Library, launched in August of this year. Dori grew up in southern Minnesota, spent the last 19 years in Iowa, and has just recently moved to the Seattle area. She is on a quest to do an author visit in all 50 states (14 down, 36 to go!).