First, before I forget and especially for any folks that might come here looking for it, here’s the link to the gallery of images from the 30th Appalachian Writers Week at Hindman Settlement School. I haven’t gotten back to label or tell anything about them, but those who would like to can leave comments on the gallery itself or on individual images.
For the most part, it is the evening speakers whose portraits I grabbed, while it was the writers in the trenches, the school secretary, hopeful english major or highschool teacher and story-telling grandmother from whom I learned the most.
Second, I’m not being coy or closed or cryptic about the week away. I’m still processing, still debriefing, still transferring “action items” and terms and author’s names and must-save nuggets to “permanent” storage, setting alarms, making lists of folks to email, ideas to follow through on, setting priorities high-medium-low.
There were no earthquake epiphanies, but there were dozens of emotionally and intellectually significant temblors that only become evident looking back at the traces on a quiet morning back in my chair, at my desk, in my space and time.
I will tell you that my internal dialog during the week was not always positive. The hardest part was the interminable sitting. I groused not a little under my breath. I haven’t felt such fanny fatigue since my bass fishing days at Auburn when we used to speak of similar pain, fatigue and prickly heat we called “boatman’s butt.”
And I was often at a loss for what to do with myself, in between scheduled events, caught in a cluster of people telling inside stories that did not and could not involve me. I’m gregarious at some moments in these group events overall, but there are times I am also very reclusive and miss my private space. That said, I will go back. I must go back.
The week has carried me (fleetingly?) back to the writer I once was or aspired to be. He lives after all. He’s been smothered by the very riches he sought to obtain in his earliest writing, what with newspaper columns, coffeehouse readings, the civic presentations and the everyday blinking cursor of the blog demanding to chase six hundred words toward the word PUBLISH. What he must do has held captive and demanded less of those things he would do.
Ten minutes. That is the sum total of exposure of my words and images to this wonderful group. It is not the kind of meeting, what with 130 participants, that gives the entire group a significant sampling of the work of anyone with the exception of the evening presenters who get only fifteen or twenty minutes each.
Ten minutes: the five I expected as a “participant reader” in that daily 4:00 to 5:30 slot; and five I had not expected. And while the audience responses to and later comments on my reading from the preface and early part of Slow Road Home were quite positive, it is the second five minutes that for me was most significant.
The short of it is that I had an opportunity to show some of my narrated PowerPoint “visual essay” to the memoir class on Friday. It got a very good response indeed. And this gives me the external validation I so needed (though a negative reaction would also have been useful) before I give this presentation at least three times this fall to various groups. Thanks to Joyce Dyer for inviting me to show this, then insisting that I do so when I tried to back out at the very end of Friday’s final hour of class and the writing week.
So. You see, it’s a slippery slope, this writing from the wellspring whose waters bubble so much closer to the surface here a few days after Hindman 2007. And my question, the tough cud I chew on today is: what does the man do to put legs on his dreams? If the upcoming full-color book (Working title: A Hundred Feet From Home — A Grownup’s Nature Companion) really is top priority, what needs to happen, what needs to change?
And more immediately for anyone actually having read this far, what role, if any, might the blog play? Is it an aid to writing or a hindering obligation? Can I escape the gravitational pull of short, terse blog-length writing even while it is a more complete, more personal and hopefully more important vein of writing I see out there for a different audience entirely?