My writer buddy Pam tipped me off about today’s salon at Hedgebrook. She also drove, which allowed me to indulge freely in the wine at the the poorly described “wine and cheese” reception, which included hummus, deviled eggs, and veggies, plus the wine and at least six kinds of cheese.
People, I can’t overstate the importance of having writer buddies.
Hedgebrook may well be the best kept secret for women writers in the greater Puget Sound area. On the one hand, I want to sing its praises to make it a less well-kept secret, but on the other, I don’t need any more competition for the residency. A thousand people applied last year for 40 spots. I might have better luck getting published and then getting invited to teach at a Salon, because the teachers get to spend a few nights in one of the hand-crafted cottages with loft sleeping areas, stained glass windows, pottery sinks, and surrounded by evergreens. (Also, maybe by then they’ll have a cottage that allows dogs… then again, it’s just as well. I don’t think Mia could climb the ladder to the bedroom.)
Because my primary genre at this moment is memoir, I signed up for the morning session with Erica Bauermeister, Turning Life into Memoir. In two hours, we worked through several prompts to inspire memoirists at all stages, which gave me fresh perspective I can use as I revise Bark and Lunge. Erica defined good memoirs as being “generous.” Don’t just talk about yourself, but share what you learned. Or at least be really funny. Erica also spoke a lot about working with her own writing group, which made me feel really good about the bond I’ve formed with my own.
Between workshops, we were treated to a sumptuous lunch of mixed greens with blue cheese, pomegranate seeds, and pecans, and choice of soup: ginger sweet potato coconut curry or beef chili for the carnivores. Followed by an assortment of cookies and brownies, of which I ate too many. (Please don’t tell Bob Harper on me!)
Incidentally, whenever I fill out an evaluation form for anything that asks how they can improve whatever it is, I always write “snacks.” No need for that here.
Naturally the title, Good Metaphors Are Like Puppy Photos on Facebook (Easy to Like), initially attracted me to Laurie Frankel‘s afternoon workshop, and I followed that instinct because me write pretty someday. I knew I was in the right place when Laurie started the discussion with a slide of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, explaining how impressionist paintings themselves are metaphors. We had a lively time coming up with unique descriptions of rain, the taste of beef gristle, and how an old geezer might describe a headphone-wearing, videogame-playing kid.
My main takeaway from the session was the idea that metaphors don’t necessarily have to make something more “visible” to the reader. Sometimes they take you away from the literal meaning, but bring you closer to what the author is trying to express. Favorite example, and not just for the obvious reason: “The rain caressed her, licked her, like a mama dog cleaning her pups.” Laurie pointed out that the metaphor is a lie. That’s not really what the rain is doing. What the metaphor conveys is how the character feels about the rain. As a writer who struggles sometimes to write straight-up what my characters feel, I ought to explore this type of metaphor.
Revved up and inspired, I trotted down to the longhouse for the aforementioned wine reception. Pam and I both signed up to read from our memoirs at the open mic, something that would have terrified me a year ago. I planned to introduce my piece, an excerpt from the second-to-last chapter of Bark and Lunge, by saying that I was looking for critique buddies (fresh eyes), but I didn’t even have to do that, because they passed around a list where people could put their contact info and exactly that sort of request.
Afterward, a few people told me they could relate to my piece, and that they’d like to read the rest. And I was enormously proud of Pam, whose Sperm Runs went over huge.
All in all, a fantastic, energizing day!