After the Summer Writing Workshop: Back to The Real World
January 22, 2018 § 5 Comments
By Melissa Fast
I noticed the moseying around the quiet little town of Gambier, Ohio—stop by the Amish basket maker, peek in the bookstore one more time, grab a bite to eat at the Village Inn (Ohhh, the tater tots). Suitcases were already packed and most of the writing workshop participants had boarded shuttles to the airport or loaded up the car and left. The few of us who remained didn’t want to leave. The spell would be broken.
I know I’m not the only one who thought it. Once home, I scrolled through Facebook and Twitter feeds and saw the same kind of sentiment—magical, fantastic, unbelievable. Status updates tried to encase the week-long experience of The Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, perhaps to hang on just a bit longer.
I more than willingly entered this other world. For an entire week, I was spellbound in words. I dis-remembered contrary business partners and less-than-desirable job duties, while I also dreamed about what transition may await in the real world if only I could collect enough courage to leap upon return.
Last summer I imagined going home with containers full of new seedlings that I would nurture and trim and watch grow. Perhaps, one would rise so sturdy, I would climb to the top to reach great riches. The generative workshop was especially important last year. Having nearly finished a project that has haunted me for more years than I care to admit, I was afraid if left alone, I might stop writing.
During the week, my writing sprouts surprised me. I’d expected certain themes to surface that I’d been stamping down for years, but all it took was a supportive community (and a few nights of sleep deprivation) to start thinking on the page about dusty secrets.
When I wasn’t hunched over a composition book or my laptop, I was sitting with my kindred talking about favorite mechanical pencils and the pros and cons of ballpoint pens versus fountain pens. And is writing with an old-school, quill pen charming or pricey (new definition thanks to one of my classmates)?
Conversations with people from around the world or just around the state, newbies or those I’ve idolized, revealed not only that we are all serious about the craft of writing, but that in most cases we’re full-on nut jobs—all worrying if we are good enough, smart enough or have enough cheek to get words on a page in a way that others may read.
As I meandered through the bookstore one last time Saturday morning, I ran into one of the fellows from another class. We were talking about which souvenirs we should take home, and I said something like, “Well, we gotta get back to the real world sometime.”
She smiled and said she had said something like this to her instructor, to which the sage replied, “What if this is the real world?”
I felt the heat of renegade tears coming and excused myself. Standing outside in the sun, I tried to convince myself I was simply tired from one long, exhausting week, and goodbyes were always hard.
Admittedly, it was great to be back in my own bed after a week of sleeping on a dorm mattress that felt like it was stuffed with plastic coat hangers. Nonetheless, my dreams fitful—part of me here and part of me still at Kenyon.
Tears were still with me when I awoke.
I expected re-entry to be tough. This was not my first journey to never-never land. From pencils to syntax to craft, I have always loved the complete immersion into all things writing, and yet, I knew my day-job woes would still be there when I returned.
The only difference is that I think my people at Kenyon helped me see that my two worlds may need to be one, and once upon a time may be now.
Melissa Fast is a nonfiction writer from the Midwest. She spins words during the day as a public relations professional in the nonprofit world. In her free time, she slugs large quantities of French-press coffee as she plays with words in hopes of making sense of the world around her. She holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, and was selected as one of the winners in the 2017 Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards from the South Carolina Writers Association. Her work has also appeared in Minerva’s Rising and Bluestem Magazine.
** Registration is open for the 2018 Kenyon Review Writers Workshop.