anghara (anghara) wrote,

The Leavenworth adventure

I was Writer-In-Residence for the summer writing camp organised and run by the fabulous Book For All Seasons independent bookstore in Leavenworth, WA - the glorious pseudo-Bavarian village where accordion players play polkas in the little park in the centre of town or yodellers in lederhosen do their thing from the gazebo bandstand; where every window has a window-box overflowing with petunias and geraniums, and every street light pole and house overhang is festooned with flower baskets of extraordinary size and fecundity; where you can have honest-to-goodness Kassler pork chops and Wiener Schnitzel accompanied by spaetzle and sauerkraut and red cabbage in restaurants whose muzak is Mozart and Strauss. I seriously love that place.

However, back to business, as it were - the bookshop folks were kind enough to put us up for the night (on the Sunday) in one of the rooms of the associated guest house - this time we stayed in the Sherlock Holmes room, complete with a genuine Underwood typewriter on the desk, a pipe stand, and a black umbrella hanging in the hallway - and although we stayed up to watch the Perseids the same thing happened as ALWAYS happens with me - the clouds came in and that was pretty much that. I've yet to see a meteor shower. The clouds have it in for me. But I went for a walk just as the sun set (and it appeared to do so in three separate directions, with a fiery sky here there and everywhere what with apparent reflections and light bouncing off mountains and all that) and I saw what might have been a juvenile bald eagle land on top of a sharp A-frame roof point and perch there while he surveyed...

However, back to business again.

Monday morning, the writing camp was supposed to begin. I was "on" at 9:30 that morning, so while we waited for the mob to be ready we hung out in the Starbucks adjoining the bookstore with coffees (I made the occasional foray into the bookshop, and I saw the troops descending the stairwell from above where they had been having a pre-camp briefing, and that was the time I made the "balcony is full of teenagers" remark that rdeck so gleefully blogged in his own blog. But there they were, indeed - twelve of them, sitting at three tables of four each, looking expectant.)

What can I say? It was fun. We did a bunch of writing exercises, starting off with one where I told them "write a story about [insert topic, culled from a writing exercise book], you have five minutes". Some of them pulled a real dog of a topic (one of them had to write a story about a yawn!) but they handled it gamely, and even the yawn story was, if not spectacularly brilliant, then at least spectacularly original and it had me and the rest of the crowd on the balcony in stitches when the perpetrator shared it with us. Then I told them that I wanted them to "come to their senses" and we spent an hour and a half exploring the many ways of perceiving a world. I started them out with "Christmas - see what you can come up with that means "Christmas" for you without relying on your eyes only". I was introduced, during this exercise, to the wonders of peppermint ice cream and frozen cookie dough ("You've NEVER had frozen cookie dough?" one of the kids asked while the rest of her table wore faces of horrified pity. "I usually bake mine first," I said, and the youthful voices rose in a hubbub telling me no, that was not the way of things, you eat the frozen stuff first and then you bake whatever's left of it when you're done. I gravely took this under advisement.) Then I told them I would now give them each a separate topic, and they were to do the same sense-collating thing but this time they were supposed to come up with a story at the end of it. One table got "Fourth of July", and one of the things that they came up as their "keywords" before they wrote their story was "destruction" (their story wound up being all about how a stray firecracker burned down a house. These kids don't let the grass grow under their feet). Then I told them to pick a "mystery topic" per table, and collaborate on writing down a list of sensory "clues" to give to the next table down to guess what they were thinking of. One of the tables immediately came up with "pirates of the caribbean", which started of a spirited discussion about the fact that the original idea was about "real pirates", not "movie pirates", and then we degenerated into a squabble about whether Orlando Bloom was "hot" or, in the words of one of the younger participants, "oogy". At which point I admitted defeat.

They all got copies of my book, the first "Worldweavers", and one of them told me later in passing (later in the afternoon, when I had a signing slot at the bookstore and the kids meandered past as they were being picked up by their caregiver units) that she had "Already read a few pages, and it's *very good*..."

We picked up sticks and waved Leavenworth goodbye at around 3 PM on Monday afternoon, and were home by just after 6 o'clock. It's a long drive, but much of it is so breathtakingly beautiful that it doesn't seem like a chore.

All in all, a good time was had - German food, geraniums, Strauss and writing. In theory, this is "Work" - it's something that a writer just does, in addition to putting words on paper. The appearances, the workshops, the teaching, the signings, the readings, all that stuff. It's "Work". But you'll have to forgive me if I simply cannot see the chores for the joy of it. I love what I do.

My sincere thanks to Book For All Seasons staff - Amy and Nat and Stephen and Pat - and, hey, Leavenworth, I'll be back...
Tags: writing, writing life

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