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July 17, 2016 / thackersam

What Are You Writing

Me and my good friend at the IWWG summer conference where we learn to write good.

Here we are on the first morning after both of us had a relatively sleepless night due to the frigid temperature in our suite. This is my attempt to take a selfie of the two of us together at breakfast. It was the best I could do. Okay, there was one photo in which parts of our heads were not cut off and she looked beautiful, but I looked like I had just caught the bus in from Hag City instead of Port Authority, and we just cannot have that. Please note the necklace she is wearing. I made that for her more than a dozen years ago and she still wears it.

Brief background – we met in August of 2002 in the waiting area of Amtrak with about a hundred other women waiting for the early morning train to Saratoga Springs. The International Women’s Writing Guild annual conference had already been held for a couple of decades each year at Skidmore College, and this was the first year for both of us. We’ve been friends ever since. At that time, there were just two trains to Saratoga Springs. Its train station was a small dilapidated building and the platform was a yellow stepstool. We all had to be in the same car so we could exit out one door via the stepstool. In subsequent years, they rebuilt the station so it was bigger and quite nice, and they invested in another yellow stepstool so all of us women with all of our bags (I travel as light as possible) could be helped off the train through two doors. Progress. Also over the years, Skidmore overhauled their cafeteria so that the cafeteria experience was amazing. I got a lot of writing done in it. I think Skidmore outgrew us and even after a long, swell relationship, they pushed our group out in favor of newer groups (Skidmore must be a man). The whole setting of the campus was really perfect for us, but for whatever the reason, the 30 year relationship ended. The Guild tried other campuses and then there was that big upheaval at the top that caused a humongous rift in leadership and membership, but here we are now at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, and aside from the freezing rooms, it looks like it may work out fine. The cafeteria is nice, the food is good, but it’s no Skidmore. However, it’s no Brown either. We had tried Brown University one year and the food sucked so royally that I ate hot dogs at least once a day as it was the only edible choice. Mind you, I have not had a hot dog in years, even with the hot dog vendor outside my apartment complex, and it is something that I would use as a reward.

For two years after that we were at Yale, which I did not attend, but I hear the food there was even worse than Brown. But this year a big effort was made to restore some of the feel of the Guild from before the rift, and some familiar faces have returned. Plus, this year, we actually had a keynote speaker. Not only did we have an opening night keynote speaker, but it was Nancy Giles. For those of us that watch the CBS Sunday Morning program, it was exciting. She is a frequent guest commentator, and is smart and funny and really tall. In fact, as I was writing this the following morning, just a few sentences ago, she passed by and I was able to tell her how much I enjoyed her speech the previous night. Honestly though, it was too long and she could have used some of her guidelines for writing a three-minute commentary.

I don’t attend the classes here anymore, haven’t in a long time, maybe one or two if I’m awake enough, but I usually sit and write in the cafeteria, or a lounge, or outside. This is my retreat. As it is a conference for women writers, there is an abundance of classes in poetry and memoir, and each time you meet someone new they inevitably ask what you write. In the past, as I had been working on my play for a stupidly long time, I would mention it to inquisitors or the personal essays I’ve accumulated but never wanted to share. Now that I am working toward a more realistic goal writing pure smut (and loving it), I reply, perhaps a bit too meekly, that I am writing erotica. I’ve got to learn to be more in-your-face about it, and say it loud and proud.

There’s no hard alcohol allowed on this campus at all (I used to bring Jack with me and two shot glasses), and the Guild could only supply wine that could only be served by a member of the college food service staff, and if the Guild took out a $2 million insurance policy. Skidmore sold beer and we could drink freely if we chose. The good news is that I got the temperature up in our suite and we slept much better Saturday night. Next month, I’ll attend the Writers’ Digest conference in New York for the third year, where they have three keynotes and lots of classes that I will attend. Nothing on smut, but some interesting crime and weapons sessions. Plus they have a cocktail party the first night.

BTW – this is the first Sunday in a very long time, surgery or no surgery that I have not exercised. Oh, and there’s no dieting while I’m here. I was missing Max, who is being looked after by my lovely facialist, long before I left, but I’ll be home tomorrow and he will then have the opportunity to show me how much he missed me.

Nancy Giles at IWWG

Nancy Giles at IWWG

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