When started to pack for 8 weeks in Interlochen, Michigan and its surrounding cities, the first thing I reached for was my books. I’m taking far more than I can finish in two months, but still, I can’t part with any of them.
Some books I’m bringing to get autographed (James Arthur’s Charms Against Lightning and Louise Hawes’ Black Pearls and Rosey in the Present Tense), even though I’ve already finished reading them. Other books I’m bringing because I hope to run into the authors this summer around Interlochen Center for the Arts or my regional travels (Doug Stanton’s Horse Soldiers, Benjamin Busch’s Dust to Dust, Molly Atwell’s Wild Girls). I’ve read these as well, but I want to brush up on a chapter or two before hanging out with the authors again.
Other books fall into the “war research” category, including: The Accidental Guerrilla, Fire & Forget, In the Graveyard of Empires, In My Father’s Country, and The Places In Between. I need these for reference and will read some of them in full, while others have specific chapters that I rely on as resources.
Then there’s the teaching books–those books I can’t stand to part with anytime I travel as an instructor. I’ll be Artistic Director of the Interlochen College Writer’s Retreat for Week 1. Weeks 2-7 I’ll be Creative Writing Faculty for Interlochen Summer Arts Camp (teens). And Week 8 I’ll be Faculty for the College’s week-long residential Memoir course. During these courses, I constantly refer to The Truth of the Matter, The Field Guide to Flash Nonfiction, The Field Guide to Flash Fiction, Writing the Memoir, and various anthologies of nonfiction and fiction teaching texts.
Finally, there’s the I CAN’T WAIT books–those that, if I didn’t have to research war and if I didn’t have to teach and if I wasn’t responsible for introducing authors or mingling with them at events, I’d get my paws on first and foremost. These include: Just Kids by Patti Smith, The Language of Men by Anthony D’Aires, North of Hope by Shannon Huffman Polson, Lili by Abigail DeWitt, The Book of Men by Dorianne Laux, and more. These are my “goodies” pile that I pull from with delight and awe, savoring each page. The others matter too, of course, but my relationship with those books is different because I’m “using” them for an express purpose right out of the gate. But my CAN’T WAIT books…the only purpose in my relationship to them is good ol’ fashioned storytelling. I relish the chance to dive in.