EXCEPTIONAL DEBUT: While she was growing up in Framingham, author Erin Cashman often heard her father say that most people use only 10 percent of their brain power. Her debut young adult novel, “The Exceptionals,” is the story of students with supernatural abilities who use their 100 percent, and the ensuing struggle between good and evil.
Cashman, a lawyer who lives and practices nonprofit law in Boxborough, said she accumulated approximately 65 rejection letters from two previous manuscripts geared toward middle and high school students: a vampire adventure (sans romance) inspired by a dream, and a treasure tale based on Irish mythology.
She wrote this book in just six months, while working part time and caring for her three teenage children. Cashman was prepared for another bout of rejections, but “The Exceptionals’’ was accepted by a literary agent at Trident Media Group and the publisher Holiday House Inc. on consecutive days in December.
“In two days, every dream I ever had for my writing career came true,” Cashman said. “My advice for others is stick with it and find time to pursue your dream. Even if it doesn’t happen, the pursuit will be worthwhile because you’ll be doing what you love.”
For more information, visit www.erincashman.com.
BACK IN MANHATTAN: Waltham artist Janel Houton recalls that Walden Pond in Concord “could not have been less interesting” during her inaugural visit on a field trip in junior high school. Now, one of her many paintings inspired by the state reservation, “Walden 3/God is Hiding in the Forest,” will be among artwork from around the world in a New York City show next weekend.
Houton will have two additional acrylic paintings in the Parallax Art Fair: “British Soldiers Died Here/Battle Road, Lexington, MA” and “The Last Waverly Oak,” inspired by a tree in Belmont’s Beaver Brook Reservation. The exhibition, which has toured the United Kingdom four times, will make its first American stop at 82 Mercer St. in SoHo from Friday through next Sunday.
Houton, who was born in Boston but worked as an art dealer in Japan for 10 years, said she is thrilled by the opportunity to showcase local landmarks to an international audience. The show’s location also has personal meaning, as it is within a short distance of New York University, from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art history. She earned a master’s degree in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania.
“I’m really struck by beautiful landscapes that have so much history behind them,” Houton said. “I want to explore the contrast between nature and the modern world around it.”
For more information, visit www.parallaxaf.com or www.janelhouton.com.
SILVER “WINGS’’: Fourteen-year-old Matthew Preston of Wellesley was one of approximately 1,600 national award recipients, out of 200,000 submissions in grades 7-12, who were honored at the 89th annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards last month at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Matthew, who won a silver medal for his digital media piece “Wings,” said he was surprised by the honor, considering it was his first year of experience with the process. He enjoyed meeting his fellow winners, and was inspired by actress Meryl Streep’s speech urging the students to always aspire to achieve their goals.
The event was presented by the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Established in 1923, the visual and literary arts award program’s past winners include Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford, and Joyce Carol Oates.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Matthew, who will be a freshman at Wellesley High School this fall. “I’m so glad I got the chance.”
Closer to home, Matthew recently completed his Eagle Scout project for Troop 182 in Wellesley. With the help of fellow Boy Scouts, he assembled and mailed 62 care packages of snacks and personal care items to Marines stationed in Afghanistan using $2,000 raised through grants, individual donations, and local private foundations.
FETE FOR BASTILLE DAY: Acton resident Cynthia Edelman, director of French in Acton, led her fourth annual Bastille Day dinner celebration at Belle’s Bistro in Westford on July 12.
The menu commemorating France’s Independence Day (which is July 14) included salade Cesar (Caesar salad), noix de Saint Jacques (scallops) or saumon (salmon), and bonbons de glace (ice cream confections). The participants were students and friends of French in Acton from Acton, Boxborough, Concord, Leominster, Lexington, Littleton, Maynard, and Wayland.
Edelman believes that incorporating cultural events enhances and enriches the learning of another country’s language. “Like the French,” she said, “we enjoyed a good meal, served bien sur — with wine.”
The group concluded the event by singing “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem of France, led by Larry Krakauer of Wayland.
ON WITH THE SHOWS: Several local actors will perform in two upcoming Boston Children’s Theatre productions.
“Miss Saigon,” which runs Friday to next Sunday, features Alex Levy of Newton, Nolan Murphy of Sherborn, and Brookline residents David Friedman, Sophia Pekowsky, Felix Teich, Jordan Underwood, and Lily Waldron.
Students in “Legally Blonde,” which runs Thursday to Sunday, include Levy, Murphy, Natalie Vatcher of Bedford, Monica Canepa of Southborough, and Brookline residents Marisa Laza, Anne Martland, and Jacob Zedek.
All performances are at the Governor’s Academy, 1 Elm St. in Newbury. For more details, call 617-424-6634, ext. 222, or visit www.bostonchildrenstheatre.org.
NATURE RETREAT: Rabbi Katy Allen of Wayland said her intention for the first Metrowest Jewish Community Shabbat Retreat in Nature, taking place Aug. 17 to 19 at Nobscot Reservation in Sudbury, is to “bring together people from diverse Jewish backgrounds for a weekend of opportunities” in connecting with one another, the natural world, and Jewish tradition.
“I hope that people will take away from their experience a sense of peace and joy,” added Allen, staff chaplain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, “and a commitment to continue to deepen connections they made during the retreat.”
The weekend program will include outdoor services, meditation, nature walks, storytelling, music, art, astronomy, environmental education, and other activities for kids and adults. It is sponsored by Ma’yan Tikvah in Wayland and supported by Kerem Shalom in Concord, Temple Israel in Natick, Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton, Temple Beth Sholom in Framingham, and the Metrowest Jewish Community Fund of Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
Open to all ages and backgrounds, the retreat will begin at 4 p.m. Aug. 17 and end at 1 p.m. Aug. 19, with a variety of attendance options and sleeping arrangements available. Dietary laws will be observed.
For more information, contact Allen at 508-358-5996 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Register online at www.mayantikvah.org/metrowest-retreat.People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@ globe.com