Writer's C(r)amp

Am back from the week long writing workshop extravaganza and just now tried to take a short nap, but have grown so accustomed to the twin bed with the thin mattress I slept on at Rosemont, that I was unable to fall asleep without the accompanying sound of the crinkling mattress or the truncated space.

What did we learn this week? We learned that writing is still hard, but that you have to go at it again and again, that you have to make it a habit, part of your daily life, or your work will escape you, go into hibernation, causing it to be that much harder to face a blank page (or screen) when you finally do sit yourself down.

Met lots of great people; got to work with Elise Juska, who is an excellent writer and critic. She gave us writing and reading exercises every day, pieces that worked in tandem with one another and I realized that you can come at a story from different directions or in what might seem like artificial ways, such as free writing a scene from a story to see if you can stumble on something new or unexpected. We went to readings twice a day (well, I didn't make it every time; but most times) and heard a range of stories, poems, and essays and got to hear the writers talk about process. Also received tons of great recommendations for books and authors to check out (Andre Dubus, Lori Lanson, Halfway House by Katherine Noelle, You Are Not a Stranger Here, by Adam Haslett, Without a Map, On Chestle Beach by Ian McEwan, Willa Cather {why have I not read her?}, William Trevor, Tobias Wolfe) and now have some new writing from the free writes as well as directions to go with the two stories of mine we workshopped. One is fairly close to being ready to send out and the other is in pieces, but I at least now have a direction to move toward.

We also all developed crushes on the faculty, all of whom are in serious relationships, but it's hard not to go slack-jawed when you listen to good writers read their work and when you also get to have lunch with them. It was sort of like being in junior high in that way, you know, we wanted details about their lives as though they were these exotic creatures, which, given the level of success they've had in a highly competitive field, is sort of accurate.

So, I'll try to maintain this momentum, though, at the moment, I just feel kind of physically gross because I didn't shower that much or shave my legs and my hair is a mess and I need a nap and my cats are winding around my legs in this constant frantic circle since I was gone all week. There's nothing better in the heat than having cat hair stuck to your legs.

Top Ten Moments/Things (that I feel are appropriate to mention):

1. Watching The Bachelorette with Fiction Courntey and Kate and then Curtis. We had the best, best time making fun of everyone and it reminded me how much better it is to view it in the company of friends.

2. Writing and reading the round robin piece--this story I started that everyone added to and then Poetry Courtney read aloud on the last night. I need to type it up and finish it so it can be emailed to everyone.

3. Watching the Lakers v. the Celitics on the tv downstairs at night with the other attendees/teachers.

4. Why am I the only one who heard B. burp during someone's reading? I almost went into convulsions from trying so hard not to laugh.

5. Meeting Pete, the soft as a bunny Brittney Spaniel belonging to Mark.

6. Slowing down in the car to pick up Charles and then yelling, Sorry, we don't have any room, and speeding off. All the girls I met were great; really funny and interesting and a bit on the silly side, which is just how I like them.

7. Elise's advice in workshop--my favorite one is her reference to Eudora Welty's (?) notion that you should pick up a story like you would a cat, somewhere just above its middle.

8. The readings. I pretty much fell in love with everyone who read their work.

9. Sister Keritas (sp?), in total.

10. The way that we all seemed to jive--no weird competitiveness or snideness that can come from a bunch of writers in one place. As a rule, most good writers I know are introverts and people-watchers so that when you put all of us together, we tend to be harsh observers. I didn't feel that this week. It felt more like camp in that way. We did not sing Khumbya at the end, but we may as well have.


jess said…
glad you had such a god week. you should read without a map. i taught with meredith at unh and she's great and her writing is fabulous. you'd like it I'm sure.
Courtney said…
Your top ten (appropriate to mention) moments are spot on. I kind of want to relive it.
Aimee said…
Maybe we could make a career of just attending workshops/retreats? Is that a possibility?

Courtney said…
If you can figure out a way to do that, I'm so in.