Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dispatches from Writing Camp: Day 1

Holy crap. I'm here. It's still a bit surreal. I feel like I'm in some sort of magical fairy land of amazingness, and I keep wondering, "How the HELL did I get here?"

First up, I've been in Portland since Friday night. I have been spending a couple of wonderful days with two of my favorite people on the planet--Josh and Michelle, or as I like to think of them, Joshelle--and their utterly charming six year old daughter, Ruby. The weather has been exquisite. It's like the anti-Texas here right now: green, everything blooming, pleasant days followed by cool nights. We spent the bulk of the weekend being outside just for the sake of being outside. Long walks followed by more walking around followed by dinner on the deck sans mosquitoes and flies followed by falling asleep with the windows open and still needing a blanket. Fucking amazing.

Today after a vegan Lebanese FEAST for lunch, Michelle and Ruby drove me to what will be my home for the next six days: Reed College. It's a hoity toity, 100 year old private liberal arts college with an unbelievably picturesque campus situated in the middle of a fancy shmancy residential area. After hauling my so-big-you-could-literally-put-an-adult-corpse-in-it suitcase to the Student Union building (on the "Quad" dontcha know) for registration, I finally found my dorm building. I'm guessing it's an original part of the campus, i.e., built in the early 20th century and therefore somehow not subject to ADA building modifications because then I had to haul the gigant-a-bag up a twisty flight of stairs to my stark-but-comfortable dorm room. There is no air conditioning, but there are 3 windows that open, so that's nice. That's the good news. The bad news is that those windows face the student union/Quad area where all the 20-something future Pulitzer winners who are at this workshop are going to be hanging out partying and smoking every night. Twenty years ago, I would've been right there with them, but now I'm old and tired and want them to shut the fuck up.

And the other bad news? Three words: Shared co-ed bathrooms.

But I digress.

We assembled for a welcome assembly with everyone, then broke up in to our respective workshop groups and met in what will be our classroom for the week. Our group is made up of eleven women and one brave man. Four of the people in the class are here together from Fresno State. The MFA program. And I'm guessing they're all hanging out below my window right now talking about how awesome they all are. But I'm trying to keep an open mind so that I don't write them off simply because they're too young and insecure to be here by themselves and they're parents are (most likely) paying for them to be here.

After that, we went for a "reception" in the student union building, complete with free beer and wine and snacks. Okay, I'm not the kind to turn my nose up at free libations, but when you've got about 100 writers and wannabe writers descending upon you for free hooch, you might want to have more than one person working the bar. I stood in a ridiculously long, winding line for about 1/2 hour for one glass of white wine, and then walked around chatting with a few folks I recognized from my class.

As chatty as I am with people I know, I'm sort of lousy at the whole "mixing and mingling with strangers" bullshit. It always reminds me of sorority rush and/or business conferences, and it makes my stomach turn. That kind of lame small talk is not my bag. So I don't know how much I'll be socializing here at writing camp. That could change, of course. We'll see...

Next was dinner. The dining hall options were surprisingly diverse and appealing. I got my dinner and went to eat outside. Again: No sweat and no bugs. Awesomeness. Ate and chatted with a couple of ladies from my class--Judy and Aggie. They've both been to this writing camp before. Old pros. It was nice getting to know them a bit better.

After dinner, I went back to my dorm room and settled in: unpacked my luggage and made my bed, check email and called home. Then, at 8pm, I went to the outdoor amphitheater where there will be nightly readings by the authors who are teaching at writing camp. Holy Hell, y'all. This amphitheater? On the side of a green hill surrounded by tall green trees and right in front of a pond where beavers were gliding by dragging limbs for their dams and ducks and other water fowl flew by and landed expertly in the water while the sunset made the light almost impossibly glisteny? And Pulitzer nominees reading excerpts from their latest works? I seriously thought I'd died and gone to fucking heaven.

To say that I am happy to be here would be the understatement of the century. I feel blessed and humbled. And you know what? I feel inspired.

More to come. Including pictures!!

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