Object Lessons: Rantings of a Lone Pamphleteer
The Last DayFinally time to sit and breathe for a minute. Between classes and readings and lectures and meetings, I haven't had time to sit down and organize my thoughts.
The last two weeks have been the best, busiest, stimulating weeks I've had in years (planning a wedding notwithstanding). We arrived August 10, and by 5 pm we were well ensconced in our new digs at the Frost Guesthouse.
Yes, that Frost. He popularized the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference in the 50's. It is the oldest such conference in the country, and possibly the longest, too! 10 days on the mountain will wear you down. Frost's cabin is nestled in the national park, about 2 miles from the Bread Loaf inn and conference center proper, where Frost in fact used to live. When we checked in, we were told how lucky we were to be out there. On driving up the half-mile over the pitted gravel road, we were met with the cutest clapboard house. It is cozy, but also in need of some TLC. The wiring is scary in spots, and a couple of cords hanging from the lights were grossly illegal. Also, over the course of the week, we had several critters, mostly spiders, in the house.
It's like camp.
We settled in well, though, and I was less concerned than my roomie about the accomodations until I felt something crawl over my feet while I slept.
Funny thing is, lots of students were awed that we were up there. I had to explain repeatedly that Frost never lived there. Nonetheless, over the course of the first week, I came to feel more at home and comfy there.
Sarah and I shared a room, which was great. I heard more than a few horror stories about roomies. Having never lived in a dorm, I was much happier having an old friend to stay with. Using her truck to the fullest extent, we brought every modern convenience, including a window fan with intake or exhaust, which was very handy. We also bought a mini fridge special, but then ended up in a home with a fridge, so there you go--you never know what you'll need.
The conference has had me running for weeks. I can't sleep: between missing my honey and worrying over things in my head, I've rarely gone to sleep before 2, and yet still have my internal clock set to 7:30. So I've been a little sluggish and over-caffenated.
A little bit about what it's like:
Bread Loaf is a two-sided conference. First, there is the art side, supported by workshops, morning lectures, and evening readings by everone from Jay Parini and Ron Carlson to students and the waitstaff (work-study students). Second, there is the marketing side of writing, from trying to figure out how to maneuver through the publishing world (mags, books, and agents) to actually getting a book deal (yes, several hardworking folks got a book accepted by an editor. To support the publishing side of writing, they will set up optional meetings with editors and agents; they also have a special talks series by people in the industry. Craft classes run the gamut from Timing in your Fiction to How to Get out of the Slush pile. I went to a lot.
I've had many long days starting with breakfast at 8-ish, followed by a lecture at 9 daily, and classes on alternating days at 10. Lunch, which has often been the best meal of the day, is from 12 to 1, followed by craft classes at 2:30 and special talks or readings at 4:15. Open Blue Parlor (student) readings at 5:30 gave students an opportunity to get in front of a supportive audience right before dinner at 6:30. The formal readings with the big names took place at 8:15 pm, occassionally followed by a 9:30 Themed Blue Parlor, Scholar, or special reading at 9:30. Anyone with energy left can then make their way to the Barn for drinks and dancing, although special programs such as music night often followed.
So, you can see how difficult it's been for me to get to the computer.
I've had a blast, and have paced myself by taking most of the afternoons after craft class off. I did squeeze in a one-on-one with an editor at large from WW Norton, as well as a group meeting with the same nice lady who knows everyone and has about 50 years in the industry. I also got to meet with an agent who is a one-woman agency, with whom I was very impressed and to whom I hope, someday, to send my manuscript, if I ever finish it.
Which brings me to workshop. Fabulous. We had a friendly, open workshop with intelligent, well-read teachers, lawyers, writers, publicists, and students. I'll be writing in more detail later, but for now, suffice it to say I've been very impressed, and feel really blessed to be in a workshop with Jay Parinin and Michael Lowenthal.
The big news for me, and my favorite part, was the themed Blue Parlor reading last night, Fronteras. Dimitor, who ran the series, suggested a Latino themed reading, if someone wanted to organize it. I kept pestering him, talking to other hispanos on campus, and pestering him until he let me do it. Then he asked me to give an intro, too, which stressed me but which I think went smoothly. We got some laughs, and I had a great time introducing the people whom I have gotten to know.
More soon, but it's noon.
Time for lunch. I'll leave you with the first poem I read last night, titled To my One Gringa Aunt, who Insists I Join her in Joining the Daughters of the Confederacy.
Querida Tia, I don't think so.
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