Life Goes On: Some Good, Some Bad
There were other things going on in my life and with the rest of the world, of course. I mentioned before, that I had become a member of that local poetry group. I was still working everyday, my daughters were still being teenagers, and our renter was exploring the possibilities of a rather large career change.
A lot of individuals came into the bookstore, some of them to chat, to browse, and even to purchase and order books. And I spent time talking with the majority of them. One woman, about my age, was a real character. She often wore strange outlandish hats, and spoke in metaphors that didn’t always make sense. She had begun to publish a little zine and knew of my interest in poetry. She asked me to submit a poem for her hand-made publication. So, I wrote one, while she waited, and she took it with her when she left. I offered to display and sell the zine in the store.
One afternoon, she came in to tell me that she had been asked to run a one-day poetry workshop and wasn’t sure what to do about all of that. She told me that she didn’t have any real, or formal training in poetry, and was very unsure of what exactly she should do. Then asked me if I would consider co-chairing the day with her, because I had far more knowledge about the whole subject matter.
I was a bit hyped and said yes. Went home and spent some time writing out several ideas for writing exercises that might be used. Spent several hours, over the next few days, really getting the ideas down and in order. They were all in a folder and I kept them with me, taking them to the store in case she might come back and we could discuss them.
She did come back about a week after her initial offering to do the workshop together. I was really excited about the whole prospect and got out the folder to share with her. She said she had to run and catch the bus, but would look it all over, grabbed the folder and left. About forty-five minutes later, the phone rang and I answered it. She seemed a bit out of breath, identified herself, and then told me that she’d changed her mind. That she felt I would definitely outshine her and that she no longer wished to share the day with me as co-speaker. Sorry. I hung up the phone knowing I had just been used.
Meanwhile, the Moderator of the poetry group had decided that we should put an Anthology together. It was a large group and also the longest established poetry group in the area, and she wanted to invite some of the original poets who had been in on its beginnings to be included in the Anthology. Some of those original people were professors at the University I had attended.
We were to submit three pieces of poetry. I did that. The Moderator of the group often came into the bookstore. I knew that she was also the local representative of the larger organization of The Wisconsin Poets. We often talked about poetry, our own writing and how we went about it. I told her I’d help her with the Anthology in any way that I could. So we often spoke of the actual details of that project and how it was coming along.
Within weeks of my experience with my strange hat acquaintance, Peggy, the Moderator of The Root River Poets came in to speak to me. Told me that she’d had another idea. She wanted the group to co-sponsor an all day poetry writing workshop along with her chapter of The Wisconsin Poets. She told me that she’d already arranged for a guest speaker for the day and had also gotten a large conference room at one of the local technical schools.
Then she dropped a bomb on me. She already knew that I had a lot of great ideas about how to get myself writing. She asked me if I would consider being the warm-up person for the day, using a few quick exercises to get everyone in the mood for the guest speaker who wanted to talk about the publishing aspect of poetry writing. All of the red lights went on inside my head. I pulled way back and got very quiet.
She was waiting for some sort of response, so I asked a few questions: “How many people are we talking about? How much time would I be expected to speak? And what kind of exercises was she talking about? And did she realize that I had never done such a thing in my life?” I was definitely stalling, hoping to get my thoughts in order and wondering if I was, once again, being set up.
She seemed to sense that something else was going on, but answered my questions as honestly as possible, “Elizabeth, first of all, this is a poetry workshop, we’ll be lucky if ten people show up. I’ve been talking to you for months now and I know that you view writing as a challenge and you have some of the best ideas for getting yourself motivated that I have heard in a long time. You could easily do one or two quick exercises and wouldn’t be up there for more than an hour, an hour and a half. Didn’t you tell me that you’d taught some classes out at Parkside? This wouldn’t be any different at all. What do you think, will you even consider it?”
I carefully told her that I’d have to find out if I could get the day off from work, then sit down and figure out what exactly I could do in that amount of time. She told me that if my boss gave me any trouble, to tell him I could bring some books from the store to display and sell at the workshop. I nodded tentatively and she left with a smile on her face.
We were both extremely surprised at how incorrect her predictions would turn out to be.
Linked to Writers Island writing prompt: inseparable
(to be continued…)