Years ago, when Guild member Madelyn Rosenberg commuted from Blacksburg to Roanoke and her friend Mary Crockett Hill commuted from Elliston to Salem, they gave each other writing prompts to work on while they drove.
"We didn't take our hands off the wheel or anything like that," Rosenberg said. "We just focused on things other than the traffic on I-81. So much of writing is head time anyway." When they got to work they would scrawl something on a piece of paper or the computer -- a haiku, a scene, a brief character sketch.
"For a while I stashed a cassette recorder under my seat so I wouldn't forget anything," adds Hill. "But I couldn't stand listening to myself on the playback. So that didn't last."
It only made sense for the two to encourage each other’s creative writing, as they first sealed their friendship while teaching a writing workshop for teens at the YMCA in Salem. "Mary brought the poetry," Rosenberg says. "I brought the fiction. The teens brought a lot of angst."
Fast forward another decade.
Rosenberg, who worked for a dozen years at the Roanoke Times, left the New River Valley and went north, then south, then north again. Hill, who worked at the Salem History Museum, stayed in Elliston. Both women had children. Both women kept writing. Occasionally, they did some together.
"We worked on a romance for a while," Rosenberg recalls. "But we petered out around chapter 9.”
Then Hill approached Rosenberg with another idea: a young adult story about a boy who was a dream but came to life.
The setting was easy, since they'd grown up 35 miles apart and were familiar with many of the same landmarks. "In some ways, this area of southwestern Virginia is another character in the book," says Hill.
They wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
"We made all sorts of arbitrary deadlines," says Rosenberg, who has published three other books for children and has two more due out this year. "We had to finish the manuscript before Mary had her fourth kid. We had to finish our edits before her infant started crawling."
Last year, they sold the book, Dream Boy, to Sourcebooks, a large, independent book publisher based in Chicago. The book's release date is July 1st.
"Writing is usually such a solitary thing," Rosenberg says. "Working on a book with a friend was a treat -- even if we did occasionally feel like we wanted to throttle each other."
"The best thing is that it's kept us friends -- we got to spend all of this extra time together," says Hill, who is publishing under the name Mary Crockett, to differentiate her children's writing from her poetry. “And now, whatever happens in our lives, wherever we go from here, we'll always have Dream Boy."