13 July 2012

An Open Letter to my Kindred Spirits of the 2012 Conference on Craft in Bar Harbor, Maine.

You didn’t know me but you invited me to go to breakfast with you.

You were genuinely sympathetic about my horrible day of travel, even though you had stories that I thought were worse.

You bought beer for everyone and wouldn’t let me pay you back for even part of it.

Picture by David Everett, Director of the Johns Hopkins Writing Program. A large chunk of the Conference on Craft participants on Cadillac Mountain in Maine -- instant, unplanned mass reaction of raising of beer bottles upon David's instruction "Now look like writers!" A ranger later told us we weren't allowed to have bottles, but we didn't get arrested.
You drove me places and refused to accept more than the barest amount of gas money.

You went to lunch with me.

You made me go to an 80s dance party. You danced with me to a terrible 80s cover band. When I over-expended my social energy and had to sit down by myself, you brought me water and checked that I was okay, and then you let me be alone.

You invited me to join you for dinner.

You wandered around town with me, talking about nothing in particular.

You hung out in the living room and played games with me.

You told me you were cranky because you get angry hungry, and we were all feeling angry hungry, so we went and got food and felt better.

You made me feel like an extrovert, and that was a strange and interesting experience.

You never mentioned your many accomplishments, and I am glad because if I knew them beforehand I would have been too intimidated to have felt so comfortable around you.

You said you were going to pass on a group activity because you felt like you needed to write, and we all understood and nobody pressured you to join us anyway.

You were on the same cruise as me when we went whale-watching, and we passed each other a few times on the ship, but you seemed to know that I needed time alone to think and look at the ocean, and you just smiled or said hello and passed me and I knew I could have company whenever I wanted it.

You were excited about the same things I was excited about.

You got up in front of the whole group of us and read an excerpt of something you had written, even though that was probably as terrifying for you as it was for me, and I had been pretty terrified.

Your writing was beautiful.

You made me feel comfortable enough that I wanted to read my Oxford comma piece to you, the one that I felt that if the piece never found a home, it would have been worth writing it last summer if only to read it to you this summer in Maine. You laughed at all the right places and many others that I didn’t even think were very funny, and you encouraged me to submit it for publication. Whether it gets published or not (and I will submit it) your laughter and encouragement made that evening number among the best scenes of my life.

You were unafraid to laugh at yourself.

You walked to the pier with me at midnight and we all looked at the stars, and lay over the edge of the pier to touch the water and spark bioluminescent dinoflagellates.

You are all so very talented, and such pure-hearted people. And maybe it was just the romance of summer camp like when we were children, but I hope it was more. I hope it doesn’t end at the last day of camp. Maybe it will with some of you, but even if it does, thank you for these ten days and thank you for showing me that there are more kindred souls out there than I realized. I needed to know that.

But seriously about the crab legs -- let's do that in Annapolis this summer. And tell me if you have a reading or a social. I will do what I can to be there. And if you want someone to grab a beer with, or someone to read something you've written, or even if you just want to chat, well. I'm here.

Now I have to go before I get all emotional and totally humiliate myself.