Artists’ and Writers’ Weekend

I had an awesome weekend. I am writing this from the southbound Amtrak from Westport, NY to New York City. I am so high and grateful for the time to simply write and make art. I’m so happy about my (and Kelly Wallace’s) business, Boot Camp for Writers or Writers Boot Camp East and West, or whatever the hell we call it.

I’ve been offering writing workshops — sporadic, weekly, or weekend-long – since August ‘12. This weekend, May 16-19, the workshop was held at Skenewood, the Georgian manor house owned by my husband’s family on Lake Champlain, five hours north of New York City.

As in any adventure tale, this weekend had suspense, characters, details, and setting.

Suspense

Whether this weekend was going to go was a mystery. A week ago, after I came down from the high of being in the cast of Listen To Your Mother, a collective of New York city writers at Symphony Space, I wondered whether to offer the weekend retreat. The turn out was so small that I couldn’t foresee breaking even. But my passion for helping writers is bigger than my desire to make a buck (I know, I know. I have to work on this!).

My goal as a writing teacher is to make writers, skill writers up, and build their confidence.

So what if we were a smallish group? Fewer people meant fewer people to please and less dishes to do.

Characters

Every story needs some sympathetic characters. And my workshop crew — Rashida, Kathryn, Lena, Joanna —  was totally fantastic. They offered so much, so much artistry, integrity, skill.

We began on Thursday night with a candlit dinner in the dining room. On Friday we wrote in the morning, walked and made art in the afternoon. Late afternoon we hung out at Ted Cornell’s amazing art farm, populated by massive sculptures, oil paintings, Adirondack charm, intellect.

On Friday night, I invited a handful of local authors and folks to our evening salon. Several — Dan McCormick, Scott Gibbs, and Lindsay Pontius – joined us. The last two read some of their work. Brilliant. And we retreatants read some of our stuff or shared our book journals. Joanna Parson rocked us out with some guitar.

Details

On Friday and Saturday afternoons on the table in the children’s dining room, we spread images and words cut out from books, newspapers, or magazines. With Rashida Craddock’s and Kathryn Cramer’s guidance, we made collages and covers for our journals.

I got in the zone, getting lost in the details of visual art and print. Totally inspiring. I made a half dozen pages of my crazy art journal that I’ve been working on for a year.

Without diving too deeply into the waters of our writing, I can tell you we wrote about parents, grandparents, children, relationships, theater, and more. Some of our work was fiction and some non-fiction and some blurred the boundaries.

Setting

I slept so heavily over the weekend. Maybe it’s the fresh air or just the big house wrapping its arms around me.

I think the house likes it when a nice group settles in. Words fail me when I try to write about the feelings of being at Skenewood – because there are so many feelings, and so many smells and sounds.

Like the smell of the lilac bush.

Or the smell and feel of the earthy damp basement when I go barefooted for raspberry jam.

Or the crack of dry wood in the fireplace.

Thanks

The talent of my friends is not limited to words and music and art. Some of my friends are artisans with food. Thanks especially to Carolyn Ware of Ernie’s and David and Cynthia Johnston at DaCy Meadows Farm.

And Edward Cornell for the visit to the Art Farm. And Michelle Maron for the soothing, restorative morning yoga.

The thing about a literary journey is that the hero ends up in a different place than the one she set out for. But the journey makes her stronger or wiser. And that is the case with this weekend.

20130519-195145.jpg
Four of the five of us: Rashida, Lena, Joanna, Me
20130519-195207.jpg
A visit to Ted Cornell’s art farm
20130519-195230.jpg
We contemplated the beach.
20130519-195259.jpg
At the apple orchard near Kathryn’s house
20130519-195344.jpg
Making art journals in the children’s dining room
20130519-195354.jpg
with Ted on his art farm

Daily Prompt: Time Capsule

2012 is drawing to a close (3 weeks left!). What would you put in this year’s time capsule?

collage for UMCOR
collage for UMCOR

I would put:

  • My collage art to promote UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). Am so proud! This was an early version.
  • My bike. Oh, my bike. I love my bike. Biking in NYC makes me happy.

    seen in a bike shop window in Portland
    seen in a bike shop window in Portland
  • My first (ever!) unemployment direct deposit check. Definitely mixed feelings, but overall grateful.
  • My new business cards.
  • Masks that the girls made at Art Students League. We all play roles, wear masks, make art.
  • Chris’s SAG movie pass. Going to the movies together has been a great way to connect. Due to Chris’s illness and our busy-ness, I feel we are ships passing in the night. But we’ve sat together at such amazing movies this year! Yesterday we saw Amour. Formidable! (my favorite French word!) Today we are going to see The Guilt Trip.
  • Abeach handful of sand from Siesta Key beach. The kids and I had such a restorative time hanging out at the prettiest beach in the world last spring. Great times, too, with my bro, Nicole, dad, and Marty.
  • A mosquito from the kids and my ill-fated camping trip to Fire Island.
  • Yoga mat. Because my mom still practices yoga and stands on her head.
  • Shake Shack fries. After teaching a semester of middle school creative writing, I take my kids to Shake Shack to celebrate.
  • School Swimming Pool and Van Cortlandt Park. I watch my kids play basketball, soccer, and baseball, but I spend most of my spectator time on the sidelines of the long benches of the pool or on the edges of the Van Corltandt Park track.
  • all the cousins
    all the cousins

    All of the cousins. Being with my four siblings and their kids for Thanksgiving was definitely the highlight of 2012.

  • President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Just in case anyone, in the future, has any questions. The man is an American, all right already. Forward.

2012 was a very good year.

yoga and my manic mind

At the end of yoga class today, when the lights were turned off and the meditative music was turned on, my mind did not automatically rest. I found myself composing Facebook status updates, mulling over possible writing topics, questioning my kids’ afterschool activities, on and on.

Today, in addition to the sound of slamming lunch trays in the adjacent cafeteria, I was also distracted by a baby crying right outside our class.

yoga class from creative commons

Jen, my teacher, said, “Breathe and repeat the word, ‘Inhale’ on your inhale and ‘Exhale’ on your exhale. This will help you block out the noise.”

At first, I didn’t mind the sound of the baby’s cry. Not too much. Until after a while. Then it was really irritating. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. “Will someone feed that child? Give her a binky!” Iwanted to yell.

The good thing about hearing a baby cry is that eventually the crying stops. Sweet relief. Thank you Jesus!

And eventually, my manic mind stopped fretting too. For a minute at the end of yoga, I drifted. Got silent. Like the baby, I descended into a place of contentment. It was really nice.

I forgave myself and everyone for everything. I felt only love for the whole wide world, even, and especially, that crying baby.