Breakfast at La Casa Encantada was served at a wide wooden communal table with beautiful place settings, hot coffee or tea, freshly cut fruit salad, three choices of eggs cooked to order, beans and toast. It was a pleasure to get to know some of our fellow guests, the food was delicious, and everywhere I looked in the dining room, there was another stunning piece of artwork. [Continue Reading]
I really wanted to sleep in this morning. I was dreaming of ten hours of sleep and not opening my eyes until 9 AM, but at 5:30 I was wide awake. I guess there’s still a lot of adrenaline coursing through my body from being on performance mode at the conference. It was still completely dark in my room, yet I could tell, that without pharmaceutical support, more sleep was impossible. And it was too late to chip a little piece off the Ativan by my bed. I didn’t want to wake up three hours from now, groggy. I thought about how nice it would be to lay in bed, put on my earphones and listen to my audiobook of The Goldfinch for a couple of hours until breakfast was served. But then I remembered my father and how, whenever we traveled together when I was a child, he’d always get up at ... [Continue Reading]
At the end of last year’s writer’s conference, I spent one night with my friends Richard and Suzy before flying home, and that night we cooked up the idea of going on a little road trip at the end of this year’s conference. It’s demoralizing to work so hard and be so exhausted only to fly home and immediately start working all over again. Although I miss my family and really want to see them, I’m happy I gave myself these days to see another part of the “real” Mexico, to relax, and to have a little vacation before returning home. Richard and Suzy picked me up around noon today and we shoved my huge suitcase (so huge it’s worth making lots of jokes about) into the back of the car and I climbed in beside it. I felt dwarfed in its shadow.. Next thing, we were on the road—it was going to be ... [Continue Reading]
I’m sitting in a big white tent with a floor of green grass, looking out at eight rectangular tables, set in rows, full of 22 of my students. I’m teaching my last class of the conference, on “The Unusual, Quirky Detail.” Right now, they’re in the middle of a writing exercise in which they make lists of specific unusual details before they write a story, and then integrate them into the story. The result is usually writing far more vivid and compelling that what they usually write. While they write, I wanted to take a moment to write my last post to you from the conference. The morning started out freezing—we were all ... [Continue Reading]
Since I was a little girl and my parents took me to the sprawling Collingswood auction and flea market on Sunday afternoons, I’ve always loved outdoor markets. I was particularly fascinated by the auctioneer who spoke so fast I could only understand one if ten words he said. And it was all in English. Ever since then, i always take every opportunity to visit the local markets when I travel. This morning I had the chance to stroll through the Tianguis—the Tuesday market just outside of San Miguel: rows and rows of knock-off Nikes, huge piles of perfectly ripe avocados (where’s my daughter Lizzy when I want to make guacamole?), cactus leaves, electronics, heaps of jumbled clothing, sewing notions, baby clothes, underwear, cut fruit with lemon juice and chili powder on top, ... [Continue Reading]
Some of you may know, from my previous writing, or from being in class with me, that I had an identical twin sister who died when I was a day old. I’ve grieved Vicki all my life and have always had a deep fascination with twins. Last year at the conference in San Miguel, I met a woman who’s almost as good as a twin—playwright, memoirist and screenwriter Amy Ferris. The interesting thing about Amy is that we have all kinds of bizarre things in common (like we both joined a cult when we were teenagers). But the funniest thing is that we look kind of alike—alike enough that people who don’t know us well constantly mistake us for one another. So all last year, when we were at the conference together, people kept coming up to her and with great sincerity, thanking her for writing ... [Continue Reading]
One of my favorite things about this year’s San Miguel Writer’s Conference is that my co-author from The Courage to Heal, Ellen Bass, is here teaching poetry and giving a keynote speech. I had the honor of introducing her and preparing my remarks took me on a long trip down memory lane. My introduction was a lot more personal than many of the others I’d heard at the conference—introductions that focused more on accomplishments—after all, I’ve known Ellen intimately for more than 30 years. I had to edit down my original version to stay within my time limit, but I thought I’d publish the longer version here. “I first met Ellen Bass when I was 23 years old, three days after I moved to Santa Cruz, California in 1979. I was doing my laundry when I saw her flyer thumbtacked to a ... [Continue Reading]
Since the San Miguel Writer’s Conference is a tri-cultural festival, the conference features evening keynotes from authors from the US, Mexico and Canada. This year’s Canadian author was Yann Martel, best known for his bestselling novel, The Life of Pi. The conference brochure described Yann’s talk as follows: “At a time when the arts are increasingly marginalized, reduced to being mere entertainment, Yann Martel will speak about how the act of creating art and the act of receiving it are fundamental to human understanding and happiness.” My favorite part of his presentation was his vivid, wry description of the guerilla book club he founded—a unique book club with a membership of two. [Continue Reading]
A small snippet from David Whyte’s keynote address about why readers need to live a courageous life:
"Writer's block has to do with the attempt to keep a conversation going long beyond its shelf life."As an antidote, David suggested the discipline of asking ourselves "beautiful questions," questions that enable us to have a conversation between our history and the ground on which we stand and the new, unknown horizon before us. These are some of the beautiful questions David suggested:
- What is my relationship to the unknown?
- What is my relationship to silence?
- How much am I in a real conversation with something other than myself? What relationship do I have to voices other than my ... [Continue Reading]
The most fun thing about coming to a writer’s conference is not what happens in the officially scheduled sessions, but what happens in the cracks between sessions. There’s the fun of exploring San Miguel, but there’s also the conversations, connections and adventures that happen with fellow participants over meals, while getting lost, while shopping, or sometimes while drinking tequila. Last night, for instance, I was supposed to have dinner with Ellen Bass, my co-author, who’s doing a keynote speech at this conference, and her dear friend Beverly, who lives nearby and is spending the week with Ellen. I made some reservations at a nearby restaurant with a great view of the city, but when it was time to meet, Ellen told me she had to go to a special event with the other keynote ... [Continue Reading]