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 desperate for a spot of sun—but just a few minutes ago, it had grown so hot, I had to take off my boots and shed my socks and teach barefoot, and I’m still wishing I could jump in a swimming pool.
In the tent across from me, I can see Victoria Zackheim teaching a master class called, “The Acorn Workshop: I’ve Got This Great Idea…Now What? Victoria is creative genius: a playwright, a novelist, a screenplay writer, and the editor of five anthologies. She told me the other day that when she turned 60, she decided that she wasn’t going to hold back on anything she wanted to do, and since then, she’s had a prolific outpouring of creative work.
I’m delighted to say that after five days together at this conference, she is now a friend. Less than a week ago, I didn’t know Victoria, but in the last five days of teaching together, catching up on couches between classes, going out to eat, and talking shop and life—we have recognized each other as kindred spirits. Tonight, as soon as my last workshop is over, I’ve been invited to join in as one of the readers in the closing event of the conference: Victoria’s “Women’s Voices” panel, six women writing reading their work for five minutes each, followed by a audience discussion of the issues raised in the pieces and the process required to write them.
The great thing about a conference like this is that Victoria is only one of the great people I’ve made a heartfelt connection with. There are the people I’ve met and loved in prior years—and am delighted to see again. And with each year, there are new friends and colleagues I will see again, speak with again.
And it’s not just me. I see these kinds of connections happening all around me. It’s networking, but it doesn’t feel like the kind of high-pressure, “What can you do for me?” and “Are you worth talking to?” kind of networking—that I have always dreaded and avoided whenever possible. This feels much more like hanging out, having adventures, making new friends, sharing ideas, with lots of laughter and collaborative sparks flying.
It’s been a truly great conference.
Tomorrow, my trip morphs into a whole different animal. Last year I made the decision that when I taught internationally, I wanted to at least take a few days to travel and have an adventure, not connected to teaching, while I was there.
And so this year, my local friends Richard and Suze are taking me on a road trip to Patzcuaro, an area about three hours away by car, renowned for local artisans. After a week of teaching, I am delighted to just say a giant YES to whatever they have planned. I look forward to adventures, reading, and lots of rest. And making as few decisions as possible.
And if there’s wifi, I’m sure I’ll be looking for good travel stories to share with you.