. . . begins in a few hours. Tomorrow morning I'll reach Chicago, and as once again I'll have a few hours, I plan to park my luggage and set out exploring downtown again, before I climb on the Southwest Chief for home.
The thing about a workshop like Viable Paradise is that the beautiful setting enhances the experience. Every single time I walked outside the room I shared with Bear and Scott Lynch, the beauty of land, sea, and sky, buoyed me up. The quality of light was pearlescent at times--the bowing, rippling marsh grasses in the low afternoon sun were stippled with silver. Sunsets and sunrises profligate with color. Charming buildings, woodland paths to explore, bike paths to ride.
Then I take another step and there's someone interesting to talk to--someone who might ask, "How's it going," and I don't have to say, "Oh, fine, thanks, enjoying the scenery," I can speak the truth--"Loving the scenery while I figure out the emotional flow of this transitional chapter," and the other person, instead of getting that fixed-smile of politeness (or the faintly curled lip of, oh good grief, there she goes again, maundering about her scribblings as if they mattered to anyone
I get a bright, intent expression and there we go, talking about process.
Or someone walks up to me and says, "Can I ask a question?" and It's a question about writing!
I learned a great deal this week, though I was masquerading as an instructor. I never assumed at any time that I can teach anything about writing, as I am still a tyro myself. What I can
do, though, is share my experience of what it is like to be a visual writer--its ups and downs. And this approach did connect with some people. That filled me with joy and a sense of purpose.
At my age, a sense of purpose is a thing to be cherished.
I don't want to overstate the oh poor me aspect--I am aware of how very lucky I am--but still, I do look at the fading bruises gotten from struggling with my luggage on the subway and I got elbowed and even shoved impatiently aside--the two or three times I tried to wrestle the stuff out of people's paths and glances would go from my stuff to my face, and there would be that upper lip tightening of disgust and the cold glance of You are old and ugly, go away and die.
Yeah, I know, I know, whining and grandstanding. However, I feel a fiction about old women coming on, and I don't give a flying fink if old women aren't marketable.
Enough of that! Two last pix before I pack up shop: My roomies, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch. Bear is a force of nature--always ready with a laugh and a quick, smart definition and explication. To her, writing matters, and it infuses her with a charismatic intensity. And Scott was not technically staff, but he generously offered both time and expertise--he gave us a great talk on self-editing that had everyone cracking up, yet the next day half a dozen people referred to "Scott's notes" when we were digging into detail on a critique. And he was there for people who wanted one-on-ones. Awesome people.
And here is a shot of an astonishingly beautiful fungus growing on an old tree stump: