Saturday, August 15, 2009
I barely made it to breakfast. While the waiters were lifting up the hot trays of eggs I was grabbing frantically for a hard-boiled egg and some plain oatmeal before they whisked everything away. On the plus side, when I went to wolf down my food, I ended up sitting right across from Julie Barer, agent extraordinaire, and we had a lovely chat. She did a great job of selling my friend Ru’s gorgeous debut novel A Disobedient Girl. And no, I didn’t do anything to pitch my work. We’ve met before at Bread Loaf and spoken about my work. She’s seen my first collection (the now-published one) and passed on it a few years ago, subsequent queries have not interested her, so no need to push that on our quick social interaction. I think agents must get terribly tired of always being pitched. She would have asked if she were interested–this is Bread Loaf, after all, and she is here as a scout.
Rushed to the 9AM lecture then, and I’m glad I did. It was Patricia Hampl’s “You’re History or How to Get the Me out of Memoir.” It was an excellent lecture/reading and she’s quite funny and charming. We’ve been having moth troubles for speakers at the podium this year and she kept battling with a particularly pesky one, at one point saying, “I. Want. You. To. Die,” through gritted teeth. Then she cheerfully looked out at the audience and said, “When you go to a Catholic retreat, they give you bug repellent. A Zen retreat, no repellent. That’s why I’m Catholic.” The audience laughed. As the bugging continued, a woman from the audience came up and put a paper towel (or something) on Patricia’s shoulder and said, “It will keep the bugs away.” Patricia then looked out at the audience sort of helplessly and said in a small voice, “I don’t want it,” as she dragged it off her shoulder. “I’ve got a look I’m going for here…” she added. It was a funny moment, and not at the expense of the woman who had put that dingy paper towel on her shoulder. The whole reading gave you a real sense of her as a likable, generous person.
At 2:30, I attended Frances de Pontes Peebles’s craft workshop on The Benefits of Telling. It was a good class, with a nice, easy atmosphere of sharing information. I like seeing how different people teach.
The Fellow readers were Vicki Forman (NF), Leslie Harrison (Poetry) and Skip Horack (Fiction). I enjoyed them all.
Dinner was served outdoors, picnic-style, to give the waiters a little break in the action. The food was really good. Focaccia, some wonderful potato salad, pasta salad, fantastic barbecued pork (my one meat indulgence for the time of my visit), watermelon, and some really yummy chocolate chip cookies. I sat on the ground with two friends and had an amazing discussion on lots of different topics, mostly related to publishing, agents, book ideas, future goals, and more. They helped generate some great ideas for me with my next project. I love collaborating at the idea stage. I hated for it to end, but the bugs started biting and the next reading was coming up.
Lauren Groff (Fiction), Jennifer Grotz (Poetry), and Tom Sleigh (Poetry) all gave wonderful readings. Lauren read from her new collection Delicate, Edible Birds, Jennifer read some kick-ass poems, and Tom Sleigh is just generally clever and funny and great to listen to. But, I did note one thing about me as a listener…I love hearing poets read their work, but I wish I could read it at the same time, or maybe hear each poem read twice…or something. I feel like I miss a lot. And readings in general get a little overwhelming when you go to every single one. I don’t know how Michael Collier does it.
Immediately after that reading, came the first of the Staff readings, and we heard from Nina McConigley (Fiction), Ted Thompson (Fiction), Avery Slater (Poetry), Greg Wrenn (Poetry), Zachary Watterson (Fiction), Gerald Maa (Poetry), Christian Anton Gerard (Poetry), and Ru Freeman (Fiction). I so enjoyed this reading, for the content, but also for the nostalgia of it. These are people who started out as terrified waiters (most of them) and have grown so amazingly. I had a real Bread Loaf moment, thinking of how proud I was of them, and how far we’ve all come…also remembering my own first time reading in the Little Theater and how absolutely breathtakingly terrified I was. “And now look at us” was sort of the sentiment I was feeling. Also immense gratitude for the opportunity. Such a place. I had tears in my eyes when I went up to hug the readers.
After the reading, we gathered for drinks and I had a few more lovely conversations that I can’t now quite recall, but whose warm glow lingers even without the details. 🙂