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Tin House Lives Forever Through this Drawing of Gertrude Stein in a Pink Velvet Smoking Jacket
Tin House Summer Workshop ended last night. I will be processing it for probably months, maybe years, because I process things slowly these days. So many amazing lectures, panels, conversations — Manuel Gonzales on how to create dire consequences! Zaina Arafat on mapping identity through personal narrative! Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore on writing on your own terms! I could go on and on, because there was something mind-blowing in every talk. And hearing Crystal Hana Kim and Nicole Chung just be totally real about how difficult it is to write with young kids — and how important it is to have writer role models who are doing it — actually brought me to tears.
I feel so lucky to have been a part of this space, and especially lucky to be in Julián Delgado Lopera's workshop. Julián’s stated goal at the beginning of the week was to help us think of our writing less in terms of production (a way of thinking that is imposed on us by capitalism) and to help us instead consider our relationships to our own writing. At the beginning of the week, all eight of us drew a “writing monster” or “writing creature”. Here’s mine:
Now I realize she looks a little like Grandpa Munster, but it’s supposed to be Gertrude Stein in a pink velvet smoking jacket, with silvery blue hair, imploring me to try new things.
Julián asked us to think about these questions: What does she need? How can I nourish her?
I have listed these things before, from a slightly different angle. But there is something powerful about externalizing my creative needs, putting them on a little creature who is giving me sad eyes and needs love and care and attention. Because that is what our art is — if we don’t tend to it, it can wither.
There are many other reasons I feel lucky to have experienced this week. The truly fantastic writers in my workshop — I can’t wait to read the rest of their novels and celebrate them once they are out in the world. The amazing organizers, Lance Cleland and India Downes-Le Guin, who created an online space that was welcoming and fun and full of good energy. All the faculty, who shared what they have learned with such generosity.
So, definitely still processing, but ready to dive back into my project with renewed energy and an evolving perspective on it. And courage! To write through the fear, to do the hard work, to wade through what Ramona Ausubel, in her lecture on staying in love with your work, called the “swamp monster” that is a first novel draft.
Feeling lots of gratitude.