Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Dispatches from NonfictioNOW!

Last week, I returned to my restless ways and went westward - to Arizona for NonfictioNOW!

Rule #1 of traveling : Have friends everywhere!
Lucky for me, my artist friends, Chris and Shelby, recently moved to Sedona for a glass-blowing gig. My visit coincided with their day off so we were able to have an adventure in the Red Rocks Secret Wilderness!

Rule # 2 of traveling: Learn something! 
There was lots of learning happening at the High Country Conference Center. I attended over 10 different panels, on topics ranging from "Mixed Media Memoir" to "The Complementary Worlds of Narrative Journalism and The Essay." Brenda Miller, the queen of form-bending nonfiction essays, showed a short BBC film of the life of hermit crabs! The keynote speakers were thought-provoking and hilarious. Brian Doyle had us start off "stupid" with a "Yankees suck" chant! And then went on to deliver a truly inspiring speech. I learned about tons of awesome books, new authors, and literary magazines, and to top it off, there were nightly readings at a nearby coffee shop. I left the conference re-energized, with a notebook full of scribbles and some new friends.
Brenda Miller discusses Hermit Crab essays!
Rule # 3 of traveling : Say yes!
Friday morning, I woke up early and played hooky from the conference to drive the 1.5 hours northbound to THE GRANDEST CANYON OF THEM ALL! In the company of a new friend from Couchsurfing, we explored the South rim. I even caught sight of an elk! 

I am still trying to process the beauty of this place. I hope to return someday and spend more time getting to know this wise land. 

Rule # 4 of traveling: Live like the locals 
Flagstaff is a really cute town. It's all trains and coffee shops, book stores and adventure outfitters. The people we were staying with living within walking distance of all of these things, and had a gaggle of chickens. My heart! 

a shipping container house!
very bike-friendly town!
When I saw a poster for a New Orleans brass band show on Halloween night, I decided there was no place I'd rather be on Hallow's Eve than surrounded by dancing goblins and spooky saxes!
The Haymarket Squares opening at Orpheum Theater
The Dirty Dozen
NOLA Brass!
Here are a few choice quotes heard around the conference:
  • “A place is a story happening many times” Kim Stafford
  • “A guest for a moment sees every flaw” Yiddish
  • “You have to take notes in the bathroom” Pico Iyer
  • “Normal is hard on curiosity”
  • “A human being is an animal who knows she’s going to die, and that’s hard.” Maggie Nelson
  • All times are good ones if we all but know what to do with them – Emerson
  • "Academia is in the biz of sorting and norming." Michael Martone
  • Skewer yourself first (in CNF)
  • “I can only write nonfiction about things I don’t understand. Writing as an investigation” Tim Flannery
  • "We investigate the passage of time, not for nostalgia but for friction” Jessica Handler 
  • "Change is inevitable – positive change is directive" Amy Wright on the future of women writers
  • "I will not be in any anthology of women writers" Elizabeth bishop
  • “We don’t live in a gender-less, color-less world. Why not embrace it, make it visible?” Marcia Aldrich

Brian Doyle is amazing:
Its not about writing, its about the attentiveness
“I’ve commited novels”
We all live in a small town, even in a big city
Pretend you’re stoned without being stoned
Witnessing is the greatest thing you can do with your work
Writing is a benign neurosis; you have the virus. 
We are the guild of scribblers and scrawlers.
You have a moral charge, a strange gift, in a world w/ sales pitches and lies, where politics is performance art
“take a line out for a walk”
Some stories are bigger than the writers
We are story catchers, agents of stories
It’s about learning to ask a question and then shut your pie hole
Use your tool to LISTEN – ask people for their stories
Families are our foundation for stories
“No one talks about what happens to the ppl nothing happens to, but something happens to them and no one talks about it”
Don’t let your work be stuff on your resume
You should be startled/shocked/surprised by what’s coming out. If not, you’re not working hard enough
Mill your gift to the nth degree