I took a quick glance into the dark van. Phew, I was the only passenger on the way home from the airport. I crawled into the back seat, hoping the shuttle driver couldn’t see me, because I wasn’t done laughing yet. I covered my mouth to subdue a squeal that might leak. My shoulders lurched and I had to scrounge for a Kleenex in my purse to wipe my eyes.
Last week, I joined eight writer friends in Cincinnati for our own retreat. Poets, short story writers, bloggers, novelists, a playwright, a memoirist and a humorist. I hadn’t anticipated it would be a five-day comedy fest interspersed with solemn reflection, yet it was my giggles that made the flight home with me. We wrote and shared, laughed and cried and everything in between. We savored the poignancy of every word from the writer’s lips. In the evening, we played a dice game. I probably shouldn’t have accused the retired hospice chaplain of cheating.
A funny parent-readiness quiz, teenage angst, death of friends, family, and students, feminism, religion and politics. Cicadas, forgetfulness, a hooker in drag, procrastination, the height of toilets, Tom Jones, and dog poo. Yes, dog poo. All written about in prose or poetry.
The most impactful for me? The poem that chronicled the challenge of coaxing special needs students and their therapy dog during an active-shooter drill turned event. “Let’s play a game of hide and seek,” the teacher said. We don’t pay teachers enough.
- Architects use vision to design structures with strong foundations.
- Composers incorporate crescendos and syncopation to create emotion.
- Quilters sew fabric, often scraps, to piece something comforting.
- Potterers turn and form a clump of clay until balance and proportion is achieved.
- Knitters interlock stitches to prevent unraveling.
A good writer does all of this.
Is this hyperbole? Think of the last book or poem you read and liked. Yes, I’m enjoying a writer’s high right now.
Story-tellers, whether through a novel, essay, memoir or short story, write prose, combining words to form sentences similar to the manner in which we speak. They take us on a journey and make us feel through their craft. But poets? They make words sing to unique melodies that seem to violate all laws of gravity though to this novice, I occasionally felt I was watching a foreign film without subtitles. “Read it again,” someone would ask. I was always grateful. Poets are, in my opinion, the da Vinci’s and Michelangelo’s of the written word.
The affirmation of my work (I shared two selections from my current book in progress, as well as two other stand-alone stories) has inspired me to keep writing, and that takes me to the true purpose of this post.
I have found my writing people, and they make me better. It’s taken a long time, but I kept looking, and I encourage you to do the same. Surround yourself with people who keep you moving forward, who help you achieve a better version of whatever you are trying to be.
Initially, I wasn’t sure I could hang with the poets when one of them said “Of course, everyone knows what a sonnet is,” and my silent response was, hmm? A good Scrabble word? It’s been a few years since I’ve discussed or read sonnets. Next, I was sure they were playing me when they began talking about sestinas, but I now know, it is another type of poem. (See previous statement about confusion and foreign films.) But these friends, poets included, are a phone call or click of the enter key away.
Within hours of arriving last Thursday, I hastily declared I wouldn’t be returning next year. I’ll blame a long travel day and three-hour time difference for that absurd comment. On our final day, we tentatively agreed on a date for 2022. It’s on my calendar. Nothing will prevent me from going, and I will be ready to be with my writing people again.
*We made up the term ‘ream’ for a group of writers. Gaggle was already taken.