Day 1: Interlochen Writer’s Retreat
I’ve been reading the faculty bios, pouring over the schedule, and double-triple-checking my craft lecture notes. It’s hard to believe I’m giving the opening lecture but it’s really just being in the right place at the right time. Now, the retreat begins. Anne-Marie Oomen, Tony Ardizzone, and I get to stay in Frohlich Lodge on the shores of Green Lake. We get wine in our kitchen, smoked Great Lakes whitefish in the fridge, snacks on the counter. Nothing you can’t buy at the local Tom’s Market, but nice gestures all the same. The comforters on the beds are plush red, the carpet in the dining room a cushy, textured white, and deck furniture that says nap here.
I spend the afternoon in the living room talking craft with Tony. I tell him I have this hunch that the way in which creative impulse comes to us might also contain a kernel of wisdom about the best form in which to tell the story that’s about to come. He tells me about life as full-time faculty at Indiana University in Bloomington (where he taught side-by-side for years with Scott Russell Sanders, an esteemed nonfiction author I worked with in 2009 on my first Alaska excursion). He lists books I might like to read, conferences I might try teaching at. It doesn’t take long before we find a connection: the Montessori school that his daughter teaches at in Portland, OR was founded by the man who was one of my Montessori teachers as a child. Later, we meet up with Patricia Ann McNair and Philip Hartigan for dinner, then head to the kickoff reading.
While the readers and audience members head to the Hofbrau for drinks, I head for Frohlich to change into my running clothes. It’s been a full start to the retreat, but I can still feel “the real world” pulling at me. I’ve got to run so my mind will calm down. Two more rejection letters came in yesterday and I’ve been fluctuating between moments of confidence (this is the right path, regardless of rejections) and fear (but what if…what if…?).
After my run, Anne-Marie suggests we jump into the lake. This is just one of the reasons I love her. Besides that she’s helped out my career by inviting me to teach for Interlochen’s College of Creative Arts, besides that she’s a great poet and memoirist, besides that her fashion sense could knock out most runway models, she’s also a wonderfully free spirit. She’s nearing retirement from teaching and still wants to go jump into the lake at half past ten. Then she wants to see pictures from Wallowa County. Finally, we’re both ready for bed. When my head hits the pillow, I can smell the lake in my hair, I can hear water lapping against the shore, and the loons are calling. It’s a pure, Northern Michigan summer night.