Yale Writers' Conference: Day 10, Last Workshop, Saying Good-bye

I wasn't of those kids who went to summer camp every year. The only formal camp I went to was with my youth group in seventh grade to Warren Wilson (hi, Maja! Don't forget to send me your dad's phone number for my next organ donation story) and my recollections of it are vague. As we're doing here, we stayed in the college dorms which I thought was very grown-up, but the only distinct memories I have of that time are discovering a stash of Penthouse Forum magazines one of the college students had left behind (thereafter, I never quite got looked at any root vegetables in the same way), and a lot of crying after Kitty Wiseman told Katie Battoe to watch out for Scott Reese, after what he had done to Kitty in the swimming pool the summer before. I wrote an essay about it in grad school for Vivian Gornick's nonfiction class. About my heartfelt essay, she said something like, "Why should we care about these girls? Who gives a shit about your summer bible study and how you got poison ivy?" Exactly. No one did, not even me, really.

I'm not saying that this conference is like summer camp, but it does definitely have some of the trappings, because you're away from what's familiar, you have to make new friends, you're forced to go through that flashback-to-middle-school ritual every morning as you scour the dining hall for friendly faces, and you spend your days trying to figure out who you are, what matters to you most and how you can get that on the page. At this camp, that's done by writing, reading, listening to smart people, and talking about how to hone your craft.

I have a long to-do list when I return to the regular world. Send out my work more, send writing assignments to Sergio and Molly, get in contact with Kirsten about reading for Origins, find a way to be more active in my literary community, check out those books at the library written by the writers I love as well as those written by the writers they love (following their literary history) memorize a poem every month, read more poetry, work on 750 word humor pieces, find my tribe where I live. Long term goals include beginning a novel for next year's conference, revising and sending out my existing stories as a collection, and specifically, I want to get a piece in Narrative, something on NPR, a story in Tin House, to develop a relationship with a small press that I love, and become Amy Bloom.

I'm so glad I did this, and the fear now is that it will all evaporate, starting on Tuesday afternoon when I get home and need to walk the dog, want to start watching The Wire (that guy gave a talk about writing for the show), begin sifting through my work emails, and again become immersed in the day to day distractions that pull me away from the writing. But I do know that it doesn't happen accidentally--I am the only one who can make the time, I am the one who gets in my own way, and so there are no excuses for not writing.