Can you tell I'm back in the classroom already? :)
On the other side of the desk, that is. The other week, I was a student again. And I was a sponge. There is so much to remark upon about Lambda, so the task of chronicling it to people who weren't there seems overwhelming. I am also trying to consider my audience, and be aware that perhaps some of you dear readers may be my fellow comrades-in-arms, us Knights of the Pointy Table. (that was the nickname for the Fiction Fellows at Lambda) Maybe you had to be there.
But that is not a writer's excuse. Let me try, just try, to capture some of the magic that swirled around all week. Okay. So there were us Knights, the fiction fellows. And we got our asses kicked (in a great way) by each other, and by Nicola Griffith, our fearless workshop leader. Then there were the poets, who were getting their asses kicked in a different way by having to write a new poem every damn day. And the non-fiction peeps were workshopping and writing new material...
Point is, we all worked hard. And we got to play hard too. Share meals with each other and bond over beer and wine and cigarette runs. (How did I shape-shift into a smoker for a week? I don't know, but I'm glad it's over. Gave the pack to my roomie...as soon as I got back. Okay, two days after I got back. I had a couple nostalgia smokes).
I have a composition book filled with notes. And I carried it with me wherever I went...from breakfast to class to useful lectures to late night beer around the courtyard tree where people would be dropping names of authors I couldn't believe I hadn't discovered yet, and couldn't wait to embrace. Embrace. All of them, all of you wily Lambda fellows. We were like some kind of Chia Community. It grew so damn fast! But unlike Chia, I do hope some of the bonds we made will continue to take root. Cuz Chia Pets, really? Kind of a dumb fad. The Lambda fellows? Felt like home.
And I'm psyched beyond belief to already see these seedlings sprouting with folks in my area, and through online connection to those I already miss like family. I know that word gets thrown around a lot in queer culture, and I could write all night about why and how it's usually awesome and what have you...but beyond this. Beyond the need for a chosen family, what about when you find yourself in the absolute rightest room of your life? What about when you feel like that family chose you? Queer writers. Lambda Fellows 2010. Knights of the Pointy Table. I'm getting almost jingoistic here for the Queer Nation. Honestly, yall, pass me a feather boa, the pom poms, and some tissue-- because after we kick ass I need to process.
And here's a shout-out to the woman who led the pointy-table charge: I linked to her blog above, but I'm going to praise her again here: Nicola Griffith. What was so immensely helpful about working with her was certainly the way she helped me think about my novel differently, and rewire my brain to narrative grammar, sensory detail, etc. etc. But ALSO--as a teacher myself, I was so inspired by how well she held that line between compassion and toughness. You have to do that. It's such a sign of respect towards your students to care about them enough to be rigorous, to be demanding, but still do it with a smile and warmth. I'd known how to do that...but not to the extent. And I'd been burning out as a teacher. So I was motivated to go to the other side of the desk again. The change feels huge in my classrooms now. AND her partner Kelley Eskridge also kicks ass and gave the best, most inspiring lecture on the business and life of writing. I can't wait to read her novel.
Oh also? Learned a shit-ton about writing. Also? Felt my personal barriers about fears of risk dissolve as I read from my novel The Ella Verse at the end of the week. Yes, I've slammed raw personal poems dozens of times. I can't explain it. This was transformative.
I also loved the fact that the genres mingled so freely with each other, teacher and student alike. (many of us are in fact "trans-genre"). Ellery Washington, the inspiring non-fiction teacher, was also wonderfully approachable and giving of his time and attention.
Final highlight: I hugged Ellen Bass, co-author of The Courage to Heal after my reading. Her book that helped me heal, helped take me to a place where I could write something like that. And then have it come back around. Won't forget that moment any time soon.
But there are more moments like these I could tell you about, leaking into three hour chicken and waffle post-retreat reverie time with Meg Day and Billie Mandel, my Oakland Lambda homies. And coming down from the high...there are more moments to come.
And then there is coming back to the room. And getting to work.