Monday, April 25, 2011

Word Girls


For a writer
(which is what I sometimes call myself), there can be no better guest than another writer. Nicola came solo from Cape Cod for a retreat to work on her novel-in-progress. When she arrived in Lincoln, H and I were in Kentucky, where I had a week-long gig as guest author in the Spalding University BFA program. I taught two four-hour classes to advanced writing students, gave a morning presentation to fifty high school girls from local Catholic institutions, and had an hour-long radio interview. It was a full teaching schedule, but H and I managed to sneak in an afternoon trip to the Maker’s Mark distillery, thanks to my friend and former student Sylvia. If you haven’t tried bourbon flavored coffee, I suggest you order a bag pronto.

Anyway, because we were gone, Nicola stayed at Firefly B&B just up the road and owned by our good friend and neighbor, Issy Link. Nicola is English and Issy is from Germany, and they got along famously, talking about “the old country,” as Issy says. Nickey spent three nights in the rustic Firefly cabin, getting through the first revision of her novel (over forty chapters of it). Then she came to Fern Forest for her last night of solitude.

When she emerged from the treehouse, we had some good conversations. We found lots of common ground. We both teach creative writing; we're both working on books; we each enjoy a balance of company and solitude; and we each have two sons with whom we're madly in love. And we both exercised restraint about pinning each other down with a detailed summary of our writing projects.

Most of the time, though, she holed up in the trees to work on her writing. There’s something about seeing a runner running that makes me want to run, too, even though I’m slow as a slug and graceful as a hyena. And there’s something about knowing a writer is at work that makes me want to work, too. I had been contemplating a new project, a book about making moonshine, including a few vignettes about my enterprising Virginia ancestors, but I hadn’t gotten around to setting the wheels in motion. Nickey was just the thrust I needed. In the short time she stayed with us, I drafted a satisfying intro and an outline of chapters. Working title: Hooch. So far so good.

It’s always a delight when writers inspire each other. I’m grateful to my Facebook writer friends, one of whom rises at 3:00 a.m. and posts that she’s beginning her writing day. I love hearing that someone is giving a reading or has just had a poem accepted or is courting an agent for a young adult novel. They get me going.

I have miles of mountain road ahead of me to make my moonshine story unfold. If Nickey comes back with her novel manuscript and hangs around a while, I just might be motivated to get the job done.

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