I'm kicking this off on the solstice...fitting, I think. Here I am in one of the sunniest places on earth, engaging in what I love the most, on the longest day of the year.
Writers at Work has aspects that feel grass roots--all volunteer board puts it together, classes take place on a small campus that's all but abandoned in summertime and there's a humility to the whole thing. Maybe that's the Utah-i-ness of it, dunno. But the talent of the instructors, readers and guest faculty who parade through here year after year is anything but bush league. Not only that, but the participants approach workshop with generosity, intelligence and honesty, albeit a range of skill from amateur to extremely accomplished.
There are a handful of folks from the Pacific Northwest, but most of the people I've met live here, in Salt Lake City--which, surprisingly, has an active literary community. I say surprising because Salt Lake gets a bad rap when it comes to other-than-Mormon activities. Sure, the place is squeaky clean, and is littered with LDS temples, but people write here, and they write well.
I'm taking workshop from Steve Almond and he is quite a skilled teacher. He's engaged, honest, tough and generous. Most importantly, he exudes the magic ingredient imperative for all exemplary workshop leaders: passion for story. Reverence for the art that deigns to venture into the murky waters of humanity. That's what I came here for, and that's what I'm getting.
I met another fabulous writer tonight, as well. A woman who lives in my neck of the woods, Cheryl Strayed, whose novel "Torch" is one of the most heartbreaking and poignantly written books I've come across in a while. Not only that, but her love of language, her enthusiasm for the craft and her wide-eyed spirit infect everyone around her.
If it sounds like I'm gushing like a fountain, I apologize. I'm usually much more jaded and writerly. You'll see....if you keep on reading, that is. Meanwhile...check these authors out. Write, read and be merry!