And it’s been twenty-five years since I was a classroom teacher; as a homeschooling parent I learned to let my kids teach me.Learned that learning happened best when I didn’t teach at all. They aren’t teachers either; maybe my daughter and I have friendly faces. I take workshops that get me even more buzzed up than the too-many cups of coffee I’ve been drinking: on speculation in nonfiction, on blending genres, on writing flash nonfiction, on writing better with social media. I worry that I won’t connect with other writers, being here with my daughter and all, but kindred spirits can’t help but find each other.
I made her go inside with me after breakfast, after I flew in from California on a red eye because it’s inexcusable to live in Manhattan without having been in there. I figured that if I traveled to the east coast, I’d tack on a couple of days in New York City to visit her and her older brother. Braided essays that weave separate stories and ideas into one.
I told her I’d pay extra for a pre-conference workshop if there was one that appealed to her. I did not expect her to say, “I want to go with you! Collaged essays that bring disparate bits into a whole.
She chooses, “Worries of the Poet, Tools of the Essayist: Crafting the Lyric Essay.” Just the workshop I’ve chosen. Hermit crab essays that take on the form of something else.
Randon Billings Noble, who leads the essay portion of the workshop, reads a quote from , a creative nonfiction text that I own and have striped in highlights: “The lyric essay requires an allegiance to intuition.” I only told my daughter about this creative nonfiction conference, Hippo Camp, because it takes place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
There’s no sense in worrying about agents when I’m still at work on chapter three. How one writer says he doesn’t give outright feedback on others’ work—instead he asks questions so writers can find their own answers. I’m not sure all the showing-up would count as to an agent—but it matters to me. What connects our kitchen table, my desk, the redwoods? The five of us around our kitchen table for dinner after dinner; the kids drawing there while I read aloud, once upon a time.
(My homeschooling philosophy in a different form.) And an agent speaking on platform: I think about my loyal little band of blog readers. The circle around the laptop and the journals on my desk, formed by me and the authors whose books I keep on my closest shelves.Fairy rings in the redwoods, where new shoots come up around an older tree, dying or dead.Eventually you find a circle of redwoods surrounding the old stump. By the end of the conference I’ve chatted with several other writers after all. I’ve added others to my list on Twitter or followed them on Instagram, inspired to share more micro-essays there. Moore, founder of Brevity, is the final keynote speaker, and an antidote to those agents and editors who tempt me to put my cart before my horse.I look at one of my lines and count off on my fingers., about being unexpectedly called to Jesus’ mother.” I think she’s been looking for similar cheekbones or eye set, but no. How there are painted pianos placed on random downtown corners, and how often they’re being played as we pass.She’s noticed how I guided my daughter to fill her water bottle. How we find an Italian restaurant serving amaro and shishito peppers that seems as sophisticated as any in New York City, and how after a negroni and a glass of frappato I say so to the bartender, and then apologize for sounding like a snob.Still, I fell in love with the lyric form’s ability to convey that which can’t be said plain. In the workshop I write about our kitchen table, my desk, the redwood grove ten minutes from home that people don’t picture when you say you’re from Oakland.I can’t yet figure out how the three are connected, but I sense something there, in the circles and fairy rings.She must have believed me; she’s written almost daily since she was twelve.She and I can talk for hours but still she has her secrets.