As the wind whips across the desert landscape known as Antelope Valley, writers tumble into the bookstore for their monthly schmooze. The schmoozers are a small, somewhat disheveled yet endearing band of writers who learn from each other and share a love of writing.

Antelope Valley Schmooze was started in 2001 by Marilyn Dalrymple. For over twelve years, Marilyn generously shared her time and self. Under her guidance, the group flourished and even published their own anthology of children’s stories, It’s Tough Growing Up: Children’s Stories of Courage. In a 2010 Kite Tales post, Marilyn wrote, “I’ve benefited and learned so much while facilitating the schmooze. But I think an important message I’d like to pass on is—never limit or doubt yourself, and never question the generosity of others. It is this generosity of time, sharing, and support that can make dreams come true.”

In 2013, Kay Slowey-Sly took over as coordinator. Kay said, “The people are important and what SCBWI offers is also important. I selfishly wanted to keep it going not just for me but because we have a great group of interesting and talented people.”

Members include self published as well as commercially published authors in magazines, books, poetry, and anthologies. Some of the children’s books published are Bartholomew’s Buttons by Marilyn Dalrymple, Science Fair Success! and Using the Scientific Method by Kirsten Larson, Lion Stew! Humorous Children’s Poems by Damon Ellis, Tom’s First Spy Adventure by Clare Durand, and Wobbly Bags a Thief by Felix Mayerhofer, who also wrote an autobiography, Diary of a Young Musician: Final Days of the Big Band Era.

The schmooze is a classroom for members. Past subjects included a presentation on nonfiction writing for children’s magazines, different types of plotting for picture books, first and last lines, and writing queries. Future mind-bending topics planned are “Titles that Sell Themselves,” the 2015 Writer’s Day recap, picture book layout, “Openings—What’s Your Hook,” and careful and loving critiques.

Even though the Antelope Valley Schmooze is a small crowd, the members have big hearts and even bigger writing dreams. They shared how they felt.

Marilyn Dalrymple said, “I appreciate the schmoozes for the camaraderie, encouragement, support, and information I receive.”

Felix Mayerhofer said, “The schmooze groups were the beginning of my success in the writing world and I’ll be forever grateful for their help and inspiration.”

Stacey Cole recited, “How do I love thee, Schmooze? Let me count the ways! You inspire me, never tire me. Transpire and light my (creative) fire. We schmooze, but never lose! Except maybe money—it is held in a bookstore after all!”

Luanda Ordonez, whose poems have been published in magazines, said, “In coming to this writers’ schmooze, I have met some fantastic people with whom I have something in common. I have had the opportunity to get to know them and am blessed to call them my writing family. The group has been a great encouragement to me.”

Kirsten Larson, who has The West and a four-book Freaky Nature series forthcoming this year, said, “Joining the Antelope Valley Schmooze means a monthly opportunity to learn and develop my craft with kidlit writers in my community. Even in the age of the internet, face-to-face interaction is critical.”

For Damon Ellis, “The schmooze helps me feel inspired, comforted, and motivated. It’s therapy for the children’s writer!”

Finally, for Nancy Whitesides, “The schmooze replenishes the ink in my writing well. In this company, I can let my guard down and be myself, a writer amongst writers. They’re my peeps.”

Strangers, the friendly writing sort, are welcome. If it’s the second Wednesday of the month at 7 pm, except in December, mosey your way to the Palmdale Barnes and Noble bookstore, and pull up a chair in the back with this friendly writing bunch.

As dust and tumbleweeds settle, the schmoozers straighten their hair and stand with their pens, paper, and electronic devices in hand…ready to chase their writing dreams past the Joshua trees and beyond.

Antelope Valley Schmooze

Front row (L-R): Luanda Ordonez, Stacey Cole, Kay Slowey-Sly.

Back row (L-R): Marilyn Dalrymple, Felix Mayerhofer, Damon Ellis, Kirsten Larson, Nancy Whitesides