A Magical Weekend

On July 3oth, I traveled to Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, to attend the 34th Annual Summer Writing Conference of The International Women’s Writing Guild.  The lovely IWWG founder, Hannelore Hahn, was a guest speaker at one of our local writing meetups a few months ago.  After hearing her speak and mentioning the purpose and beauty of the conference, I had a feeling I needed to go.  I am so glad that I did.

The conference’s theme is Remember the Magic.  I wasn’t quite sure what “magic” really meant before that weekend.  I totally get it now.  When 300-400 talented, strong, free-thinking women come together to support and celebrate their passion, and the essence of creativity and imagination, magic happens! It’s hard to explain but anyone who was there felt it.  That’s why these women come back year after year–quite a few have joyfully returned for over 30 years!

The name of the quad in which we stayed. Referred to as "VGQ" instead to avoid a big mouthful.

It was a little bizarre being back on a college campus.  My college graduation was long enough ago that it was odd to be a student again, this time looking at the experience through older, wiser eyes.  However, I received my undergrad degree not so long ago for the memory to be covered in a film of brain fog.  I sensed a smidge of déjà vu as I saw similarities between my college campus at Vanderbilt and this one.  Recollections of a past life slowly took shape, like photo images developing in a darkroom.

Since college, I’ve had recurring dreams of being lost on campus and utterly out of the loop.  Not sure what that’s all about.  I have the same petrified and hopeless feeling every time, one that sometimes leaves residual effects when I awaken.  I worry that I’ll fail out of school since I can’t seem to get to any class on time, I have none of the required textbooks, and I’m not able to comprehend any of the material being taught.  Needless to say, I was reminded of those dreams as I attempted to navigate the campus and familiarize myself with foreign surroundings.

One thing I don't miss are dorm beds. Took this on last day...Mom, I promise I made my bed the rest of the time!

Although I only stayed for the weekend–they offered two, five, and seven-day tuition options–I left with an abundance of writing ideas, and my cup runneth over with motivation.  There were over 50 workshops from which to choose.  This is usually a great “problem” to have, but needing to choose only six from the list for the time I would be there was initially stressful.  I needn’t have worried, as I couldn’t have gone wrong with the multitude of quality offerings.  There were three workshops that stood out because of the impact they had on me and how much I learned….

In Using Dreams and Oracles for Divining Your Muse, Paula Scardamalia showed us how dreams can guide, influence, and spark your writing.  If we had had more time, I would have shared that recurring odd-one-out college dream I told you about.  “What happens in the dream circle, stays in the dream circle,” but I can tell you (because it’s about me) that through an intriguing exercise, I discovered my animal guide…the eagle.

The eagle, my animal guide

Poem=Sound=Body, taught by the dynamic and entertaining Marj Hahne, was a helpful poetry workshop in which we explored how use of sound in our poetry can add layers of texture and depth.  My poems tend to be very rich in imagery, but adding elements of sound took them to a new level.

The Mosaic of Creative Nonfiction:  From Journaling to Essay to Memoir was the most rewarding.  That day, Susan Tiberghien covered Personal Essay, a sub-genre of creative nonfiction of which I didn’t have much experience.  During our writing exercises, I realized that this method was the perfect way to write the book simmering in my head for the better part of this year.  On the way home via Amtrak, I wrote three essays.  As of today, less than two weeks later, I’ve written an additional eight!  Not a bad start, right?  I’ve begun working through her book One Year to a Writing Life:  Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft so that I may expand my arsenal of creative expression.

I think you’re getting the picture that it wasn’t difficult to feel inspired on that weekend.  But here are some closing highlights of my short but memorable trip, in ABC’s:

  1. A generous portion of our classes were devoted to writing exercises that stimulated and stirred our creative juices.  The instructors were highly talented and esteemed women who had a wealth of knowledge and encouragement to share.
  2. Brown’s campus is beautiful (I obsessively took pictures of the architecture and quaint-ish streets), the weather was gorgeous too.
  3. Connecting with fascinating women that share a love for and need to write, who support and encourage each other to create from their very core…it’s an undeniably powerful experience.  I felt at home with these word artisans and creative beings who think in another shape and color than the rest of society.

Posing with Louise, one of the wonderful women with whom I bonded at the IWWG's Summer Writing Conference.

I’m determined to hold on to the magic I experienced with these women for as long as I can, until my writing spirit and creative juices are recharged next year.  I’m honored to have been part of the IWWG Summer Writing Conference’s first year at Brown after 30+ years at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.  To me, the move represents a new chapter and direction in the IWWG’s life, and in mine most of all.

Was there a time that you felt intense inspiration and a prolonged period of productive creativity?  I’d love to hear about it!

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