I returned yesterday from a week in paradise, my first visit to Door County! From July 20- 26, I taught a new course that I designed for The Clearing called Mixing Genres. Upon my arrival at the campus, I accidentally went to the Jens Jensen Center, which is where they house wonderful gifts, the bookstore, handmade cards, etc. I was greeted by lovely volunteers, told I had made a common mistake: I took the wrong entrance! Back on to Garrett Bay Road, and I found the entrance to The (actual) Clearing workshop space:
Upon arriving at the Lodge, I was greeted warmly by Tammy, and shown my Loft room in the Professor’s Quarters building (same building, different entrances). Although the stairs to my room were possibly lethal, I had the best view on the planet!
The first morning, I had a taste of our entire week: five writers showed up to take the Mixing Genres course: Nancy, Pete, Jami, Siobhan, and Cate (would have been six, but one had a last minute family commitment). After a hearty breakfast, I worked my way through the woods to the Schoolhouse where we hosted the entire week of Mixing Genres in the Weaver Room:
The workshop went great; here is a brief outline, some of what we covered:
Monday: We opened with a quote by Steve Jobs. Talked elements of Poetry, including poems by Marie Howe, Li-Young Lee, Stanley Kunitz, Dorianne Laux, David Wojnarwicz, and Ocean Vuong. We also tried a prompt called Making the Ordinary into the Extraordinary. And in the afternoon, we roundtable the new work. Handout from Ray Carver’s “On Writing.” Also, every day I met with one writer one-on-one so we could discuss whatever they desired.
Tuesday: Discussed Mark Twain’s concept about Truth is Stranger than Fiction. Five Elements of a Story. “Read” by Kathy Fish, Russell Edson, Evelyn Hampton, Elizabeth Ellen, Len Kuntz, William Goyen, Brandi Wells, and returned to Kathy Fish. We did an in-house prompt on character, using photographs. In the afternoon, after a filling lunch, another roundtable.
Wednesday: We chatted about the ever-evolving landscape of Memoir. Read and discussed Anais Nin’s prologue to House of Incest. Samuel Delaney, Lidia Yuknavitch, Kate Braverman, Mark Doty. Then we read the entire Yiyun Li’s “Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life”, published at A Public Space. We did another in-house writing prompt. And we round-tabled after lunch.
Thursday: Biography: we read the forward of Shadows and Light, by Joni Mitchell’s biographer Karen O’ Brien, talked about D.T. Max’s Every Story is a Ghost Story: David Foster Wallace; Diane Arbus by Patricia Bosworth; Raymond Carver by Carol Sklenicka, and Cynthia Carr’s Fire in the Belly about David Wojnarowicz. 5 writing prompts on the board. Afternoon free. And so, I used the opportunity to do a couple of things I’d wanted to do:
I walked the entire labyrinth, and then soared through the breath-taking Homestead Meadow, following the footpath through deep woods to the Cliff House, Jens Jensen’s original private retreat:
This is Jens, the founder of The Clearing, sitting on his Cliff House bed. I spent time inside of this small but incredibly special place on the campus. I really felt Jens’ presence more than once during the week, but no place more than here.
Back in class, Friday, we discussed the essay, beginning with Bob Hicok’s “Prose Poem essay on the Prose Poem” which is the forward of the Rose Metal Press’s Field Guide to Prose Poetry. We also discussed Kate Zembrano, Ben Tanzer, Hilton Als, and Roxane Gay. We talked about all sorts of other things you might do with a writing career: radio, television, travel writing, literary journalism, plays, writers on craft (like Judy Bridges’ Shut Up and Write) We practiced our pieces for the Friday evening Camp night! Then we did one last exercise to honor one another and the great week we’d spent together.
After Friday’s supper, all the workshops performed: first my writers read their original works, then a Jeopardy game by the Touring Door County group; the Wood Working workshop explained their shed they’d built, and finally the Novel Discussion group performed an impromptu performance. Afterwards we had refreshments and I joked “don’t drink the Kool-Aid!” When I returned to my sleeping quarters, there was a group of new friends drinking wine: Marilyn and John, Mary, Pat, Joan, Russ and Corky. A nice way to round out the week!
What a wonderful week! Thanks Judy Bridges for this amazing opportunity. Thanks Mike Schneider, Kathy Swanson, Eric Rinkleff, Tammy Musiel, and Melinda Schaufer for not only making me feel welcome, but taking interest in what we are all there to accomplish. To everyone I met, and spoke with, laughed and cried, risked and debated: I cherish you. I will return.