Monday, July 14, 2008

workshop and book report

The first Write in the Garden workshop is over, and I am pretty sure, judging by the response of the participants, that it was a hit.  (I asked them for a critique on what would have made the day better, and the reply was, "Nothing.")  I was on edge for this one - thirteen writers for almost eight hours in my house and garden felt like a huge responsibility, and such diverse writers, too - some I'd worked with for a term, some for years and two I'd never even met, ranging in age from mid-twenties to eighty, and with other kinds of diversity - one blind, one from a Sri Lankan family and one, O rare specimen, a man.  I wasn't sure about the timing of it all and if the topics would work. 

It all worked.  The day began rainy and turned hot and sunny, the garden is in full bloom, the group relaxed into friendship and got to work immediately.  Wayson appeared at just the right time, as we broke for lunch, to talk about the writing process and show them his butterfly trick. Lunch, catered by the talented and beautiful Anna Dobie, a close relative, was delicious, and then we were back at it, writing writing writing, the sound of brains at work, then laughing, frowning, a tear or two, gathering to read at various spots around the garden, and finally all 14 of us clustered in the shade around the bird feeder while the birds chattered their disapproval from the trees.  Even the women who had never done this kind of thing before flourished and did strong, beautiful work.  Each writer let go, dove into the stories, brought out something new.  I had no idea how powerful communal writing can be, when you know you will be listened to, not judged.  Unforgettable moments.   

So I will definitely continue to share my garden this way.  Stay tuned. 

I've just finished a wonderful memoir, The Florist's Daughter, by Patricia Hampl - about her parents and upbringing in St. Paul, Minnesota.   The kind of writing that nourishes, like a rich meal.  At the end, I felt I knew the senior Hampls and their daughter and their town, but also, I knew myself a bit better, too.  The best kind of book.      

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