I’ve just gotten back from a long weekend on “The Spit” in Homer, Alaska attending the Kachemak Bay writer’s conference. As keynote speaker Barry Lopez reminded us that “the first rule of writing is to pay attention,” I realized that I want to return to blogging as part of my writing practice. I have neglected this blog over the last year or so because I’ve been focusing my writing time on my MFA. But I miss blogging. Some of what I like about blogging I find on Facebook and Twitter, but here I can talk about things that take longer to say. The thing is, I want to write about things that go beyond yarn and crafts. I want to write about writing itself, write about the books I read which aren’t always about knitting or crochet, write about life. I’ve thought about starting a new blog to do this, but I’ve decided to start here. I hope you don’t mind the change of subject. I’m sure I won’t get away from yarn completely, or food, or bears.
Lots of things caught my attention at this conference. First and foremost, the people. Writers, faculty, and staff have a generosity of spirit that you notice in their warm greetings, their eagerness to share the successes of writer friends, and their humor about living the writing life in Alaska. Alaska writer laureate Peggy Shumaker is the epitome of this generosity. It seemed almost every sentence she spoke was extolling the wonders of another writer. I told her she is my favorite book evangelist, and she said she’d wear the title proudly.
One of the wonderful things about my trip to Homer was the lodging. My friend and fellow student Judith Lethin lives in Seldovia–across the bay from Homer and off the road system. She and her husband keep a little RV over in Homer and we stayed in it–parked right on the beach next to the conference hotel during the conference. Here’s the view from my bed:
There were so many great classes offered that it was hard to choose what to take at each session. I decided to go for stuff I wouldn’t get in my residency–I went heavy on poetry and learned to write a Pantoum–one of the “obsessive forms.” (I’m quickly deciding that poets get to have all the fun). I met another Alaskan O’Neill–Dan O’Neill who talked about what it’s like to write about Alaska for non-Alaskans and entertained us all with stories of convincing editors that yes, all that stuff really happens up here.
I got a book I’d been waiting to read. Steam Laundry, by Nichole Stellon O’Donnell is a novel in poems (and letters, receipts, pictures, historical documents) about the sixth woman to move to Fairbanks, AK during the gold rush. I started it on the plane home and I was immediately hooked. It is captivating and beautiful to read.
If you want to know more about the conference please read one of the great write-ups by blogger friends, Theresa, David, Nichole, Linda, and Erin. I was inspired and refreshed–I saw old friends and met new ones. And as Theresa says, the conference ended with a bonfire and sharing music–I got out the ukulele, Theresa played her fiddle, new friends TJ and Ed joined us on Banjo and Guitar. Whiskey was had. There was harmony. I can’t wait to do it all over again next year. (Photo swiped from Theresa, who got it from our friend Nichelle Seeley.)