Confession Friday: My Glamorous Life as a Poet/Writer/Editor (Enjoy the view...)
I am writing to you from the Best Western Hotel while looking out to a parking lot, a patch of grass and one red picnic table, waiting for the writers' conference I'm teaching at to begin.
I have already been locked out of the hotel (no really, who gets locked out of a hotel?) two times and have gone down to get breakfast (before I knew any writers were up) but forgot my spoon.
So I went down again, this time right after a shower with wet hair trying not to make eye contact with any other poets, famous writers, agents, who are staying here.
I'm watching the clock as in 30 minutes, I will be shuttled to a chat about writer's tools-- I hope someone brings up blow torches.
Here's some things that teaching at a writers conference reminds me of--
1) We are still doing are best, bumbling around, and we are completely lost without our packets.
This is how writers operate at conferences--where is my schedule, where do I need to be next.
Our packets include a nametag, where we need to be and at what time, and tickets for drinks and lunch.
In my fantasy life as a writer, I am in Mexico on a tiled patio overlooking the Pacific and someone is bringing me margaritas while I watch the sunset while conversing with poets who passionate about their art.
In real life, I get a drink ticket for boxed wine.
2) I confess the life of a writer, and life of a working writer are two very different things.
The life of a writer is composed of all the great stories--the time I met Li-Young Lee in a Native American smokehouse, the time Naomi Shihab Nye write me a letter, a first publication, a handwritten rejection from the New Yorker, the time I read poetry in my pajamas with 3 other poets in a Seattle hotel, having lunch with someone you just met and being able to fill the entire afternoon because you are both writers.
The life of a working writer is deadlines, schedules, and complimentary breakfasts if you're lucky.
It's finishing projects, not getting distracted by the internet, suffering through doubt, feeling completely connected and in love with all your writer buddies, then feeling terribly alone as if no one understands you.
But in the end, even when you don't know where you are going, you still write on.
3) I confess when I really *love* a writer, I cannot talk to him or her because I become Neanderthal Girl: "Me like your books."
This happens to me at conferences a lot, I become an even more awkward version of myself.
I confess I have said stupid things to Bob Hicok. I have not had a book signed because I was too afraid to walk up to Famous Poet X, while everyone hovered and chattered around her, I took off to the restroom to put on lipstick. This is the adult version of hiding in the closet until the stranger goes home.
4) I realize I just love hanging out with writers and I don't arrive with an agenda except:
a) Do my best
b) Make others who have signed up to be here feel comfortable
c) Try to be helpful
If someone let's says "we should network" I run screaming from the event. The only networks I like are spiderwebs--that's some good net work--otherwise, I'm not interested connected...unless you want to talk about craft or art or struggles...
Give me a room of people who can further my career, and I will be talking to the one person who can't because honestly, usually that's the most interesting person in the room.
I'm not interested in climbing. I'm interested in perching on the ledge with you and discussing parachute colors.
5) Enjoy the view.
Looking out my window at the parking lot, I realize I can see concrete or I can see sky.
I can see the weird little cart used to pick up garbage, or I can see the sun coming through the trees.
This is our lives, every day of it.
We can look out the window and say, "We've paved paradise" or we can notice the greenery.
I can see the beauty in the connection of meeting new people or I can hear the heater running all night in the room next to me.
I'm seeing the sunlight, feeling the cool pillowcase on my cheek as I think about being here. I always believe at every conference, there will be at least one person I'm thankful I met. There are usually more.
And just like the the writer who told me, "I was a little afraid to come here, I didn't know what to expect, but I'm glad I did," I can also say-- "Yes, I know that feeling well and I agree."
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