I won. I got turned around (at Amityville, fittingly enough) after I’d remade my reservation. Got to the ferry, had a glorious ride across the Long Island Sound. If you’ve read my blog post about London you know I have transportation anxiety and it reared its ugly head, but I used the SOAR techniques and, boom, I was flying free, hair in the wind, sun on my face as we glided over the surface of the earth to New London, CT.
I had a great, great time at the Ocean State Writers Conference and recommend it highly to one and all. It’s a small conference, and the keynotes are truly notable, so it’s the best of individual attention and great readers. I heard Amy Bloom, Nick Flynn, and Kevin Young all read and am the richer for it. I’ve had quite a few nights that Nick Flynn’s memoir title–Another Bullshit Night in Suck City--would apply to, so I felt quite understood, one of the hugely enduring satisfactions of reading and, really, way way cheaper than therapy.
I had a chance to meet my colleague and mentor Lisa Tener with whom I’ve been working for more than a year now. Being virtual colleagues is a wonderful thing, and it is also truly wonderful to be with a colleague in person. She did a great job talking about publication, on which she is a real authority, and the various paths to, which I talk about quite a lot too, on this blog and elsewhere. I also got together with chums from graduate school, Randy Mott Cobb and Tom Cobb, author of Crazy Heart, and I had a chance to hear what fun it was to go to the Academy Awards with Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, Maggie Gyllenhall, and T. Bone Burnett. Wow! I also met up with my friend and excellent poet Cathy Calbert and we talked about midlife academic career stalls, which seems to happen to even the best among us and was also consoling.
Next up: Lake Placid.
If you haven’t ever been there, put it on your schedule. And if you go there, go to Bookstore Plus, which is an exceptionally wonderful independent bookstore that has everything you could possibly want–books, notebooks (my personal weakness), art and school supplies and, well, cool stuff. I did a reading there and enjoyed heck out of it. I had a great surprise when someone I’d connected with through Linked In appeared, having driven across the Adirondack State Park to get there. Wow! again. Kathryn Clark and I were probably separated at birth. We both write, single parented, and coach. I’m looking forward to a long, fruitful connection with her.
I drove out to the camp I was a waitress at when I was 16. It was a Jewish girls camp then, Camp Navarac, and now is an evangelical Christian youth camp. Still beautiful, unspeakably hauntingly beautiful. Which is what makes it relevant to a writing blog.
I’ve never been in the Adirondacks in winter, though my novel has. And, incidentally, I can’t add, though my character is a mathematics professor. I couldn’t really explain why the novel had to take place there until I got there again, (cough34) years later. It is such a powerful, beautiful, larger than life place. The human is dwarfed by the craggy cliffs, minuscule beside the lakes. That must have been what I remembered, what got into my imagination and stayed there until it came back to me when I wrote Algebra.
And then there was the long trip back, reluctantly yet safely made, to regular life in the South. Dogs and cats still there, son having taken care of the whole shebang for 10 days while mom rambled. Ah, the gypsy life. It’s coming back to me, riding on my book.
I read a blog post in Writers Digest on the way back that hit the nail on the head–it said that taking a first novel on the road is like running for SGA president at a high school you’ve just moved to. No one knows you or really wants to–you have to get out there and glad-hand. You might not meet a lot of people and you almost certainly aren’t going to win the election. But you’re going to meet way more people than if you hadn’t run, make some really good friends and connections, and you’ll be in way better shape next to you run.