Last week I went to a writer's Disneyland. Instead of rides we voyaged on words. Instead of big furry cartoon characters we visited with the creatures in our imaginations. I can sit under a tree and read poetry, flop on my bed and write in my journal—and for many years I chose literature in solitude—but only a few hours into camp I knew that I was meant to be there with that group of people.
Strange, I mused, but before last week not only had I never before met those 11 other writers but I hadn't even known that they existed. These marvelous storytellers, artists, poets—no longer in hiding as in when they worked their day jobs. Soon I was sharing aloud the tumblings scrawled in my notebook. I was listening to ideas, feelings, light and dark moments from other artist voices.
We began each day in The Cabin attic, freewriting and reading poems, essays, and stories from our leader poet and teacher. Yes, we discussed the pieces, used literary terms, and tried to find out what every work meant even though we weren't supposed to. But this was the best kind of school: no grades, no homework—and we wanted it!—and no one there against his or her will. Three hours a day were not enough. Five days—not enough.
From the attic we left to find ourselves writing in the park, the library, the history museum, and a coffee shop. We wrote, laughed, talked, and even cried in concert with gull squawks, lawn mower and traffic noise, spray paint fumes, and yelling children. I wrote sitting on a couch, a picnic table, a hard-carpeted floor, a heavy metal chair, and a saddle.
We explored forms of poetry new to us and discovered words flowing out of pen and pencil that surprised us. I used the words noose, monster, cradle, and llama. Every piece now has a start, awaits revision.
Right now I sit in the library trying to hold on to it all so that I will keep filling the pages. Look at that: a group of young campers just joined the tables near me. I hear them whispering about character and description. Will they take away a similar joy from camp that I did? Will they beg to return next year? Will they keep in touch with each other?
We scattered, the adult campers and I. Returned to our worlds with a sigh, saddened as those back home after a magical vacation. Maybe we'll bump into each other in the city. Maybe we'll decide to meet up again and share our latest penned treasures. Maybe we'll read each other one day, in print.