I returned home yesterday from the four day North Words Writers Symposium in Skagway. It proved very, very worthwhile!
As one of about 40 attendees, I met and mingled with the faculty, writer Brian Doyle, well known Alaskan authors whose work I’ve read for years, like Kim Heacox, Lynn Schooler, and some who were new to me (and now very dear) like Emily Wall and Eowyn Ivey. Then, there was Heather Lende, whom I’ve “known,” but got to actually visit with during the conference. See them all profiled here (John Straley, much to our disappointment, could not attend). Fellow attendees included neighbors and new friends from other Alaskan towns, and a few from New York state and Tennessee. Some were even characters I’d read about in the faculty’s books! We listened to each other’s stories, discussed the technical aspects of writing, and brainstormed together a lot. We also ate and drank, laughed together, cried a little now and then, and sang a fair amount.
I won’t offer a blow by blow. I can’t—the images, thoughts, ideas, and feelings swirl about too much for me to even do more than begin telling Michelle about it.
One session offered participants a chance to read 10 minutes worth of work to the group. I introduced my reading with the words “resonance” and “courage,” thanking everyone involved for those two gifts. Nearly everything said formally or informally resonated with me in some way. Listening to and talking to all these wonderful people gave me considerable courage to continue writing. They also gave me the courage to acknowledge the poetry I’ve written (such as The Tide Turns and Snowshoes for a Song . . . Er, Poem).
How wonderful to finally meet authors whose work I’ve read for years, and to find them warm, engaging, interested as well as interesting, and at the proper moments, rather zany! How comforting to hear them express so many hopes, concerns, fears and doubts that are so close to my own. Above all, how inspiring! We had so much time for casual, one-on-one and small group conversations on topics of great importance, and of very little. We literally rubbed shoulders with the famous, who did the same for the unknown—although in many cases I ought to say soon-to-be-well known. I eagerly anticipate telling others that I knew the latter back in the days before they became famous! I can’t recall hearing more moving poetry, most of it written on the spot as an exercise, yet finished enough in the first draft to touch the heart.
I’m so exhausted! From the first night meet-and-greet to the last, very promising final conversation at 2:30 a.m. the closing night, I tried hard not to miss a moment. I got to bed late every night, then woke up too early, excited for the day’s sessions. I’m going to need to sleep this off, then get cracking on the work my mentors and advisors, my peers—my friends—have set me. It looks and feels pretty hopeful.
Please note that this is not about to become a blog on The Writing Life, nor will you see much new poetry here. The main focus of the blog remains the family’s homestead life. While writing is a big part of that life, don’t worry—I don’t intend to go all meta on you from here on out!