Alaska Travels


Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference

Turnagain Arm, a June Friday.
“You have got to stop being skeptical and lighten up.” That was my thought at the end of the first evening of the writers’ conference. And really, when the sun is shining in  big second-floor windows overlooking white mountains across the bay, and a couple of hundred people are streaming out smiling at each other, it’s a sentiment that makes a lot of sense. Ask me on a Monday November morning how I feel about it.
    Who is here? Many people in their 50s and 60s and 70s. Jim observed that they were mostly women; he is correct. Some are in their 30s and 40s; they stand out — are they the leaders of us? The ones with their futures ahead of them? The coordinator of the program addressed us as “summer camp,” bringing chuckles, and perhaps a twinge of uneasiness. What does it mean to be a “writer,” and in the company of a couple of hundred other people who think of themselves as “writers?” I have three days to find out.
Naomi Sahib Nye.
Here’s what Naomi Sahib Nye had to say:
 — It is not up to you to know if you are ‘good enough.’ Free yourself from that burden. Do your work. If you are not achieving your goals, get different goals.”
  —  Keep your reverence for practice. Jorge Luis Borges said [when she met him once] “Every day I am a beginning writer.’  Richard Linklater (?) said, It’s OK to be in your formative years for a very long time.'”
 — “Write every day, so the thoughts will know when to come to you.”
 — “Be good champions for one another, even when you’re tired. Honor other writers.”
 — “The Romanian poet Nina Cassian said, ‘Life is so short. We must move very slowly.’ And, ‘I want my work to be useful, to get people out of jams. Like a screwdriver.'”
   At the end , she blew everyone a kiss. It is a different atmosphere than the end of a lecture at a Continuing Legal Education program, even one with a lively popular speaker who is cheering you on.
   Tomorrow morning, we start again at 8:30 with speakers on how writing connects people, and using images. Jim and I are ensconced in a second floor room at the top of steep stairs in the Driftwood Inn. The window looks out on Kachemak Bay; at 11:30 a soft haze has settled over the mountains. The cottonwood tree across the street is quiet, just a hint of breeze in one of the lowest branches. More tomorrow.
The lupine is blooming all along the highway. After spring/summer coming weeks late, the lupine has arrived two weeks early. One can only hope that this does not mean that fall is just around the corner.



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