Alone together

This weekend – Friday and Saturday – have been very full of wonderful writerly things.

Jake MacDonald, our guest author, flew in from Winnipeg on Friday. Angie picked him up in the Sault and brought him straight to dinner with the Stories in the North committee and J.C. Charlemagne, the musician we’d also booked for the Saturday evening event. We had wine and beer and excellent food and lots of great conversation.

Saturday Jake’s morning workshop was well-attended, with sixteen people there to hear what he had to say about writing from life. After the workshop, we had a gourmet lunch prepared by Tom Bird, another of our committee members. The last time I had Chicken Kiev was probably thirty years ago!

Dan Needles, of “Wingfield Farm” fame, was in Algoma for two other events, and came as a special guest to our lunch, then took part in the Q & A about writing afterwards with Jake. It was a treat and a revelation to hear two such different writers deal with the same questions.

That night, in spite of there being two other Christmas-oriented events in town (one of the the Farmer’s Dinner, where Dan Needles was speaking!), Jake’s reading was well-attended, too. We told Jake “Bring books!” and he did – but not enough!

“I brought twenty books!” he said. He sold out and we sent him back with a mittful of orders for autographed copies to be shipped.

That’s the surface of what happened, and it was wonderful, but what went on below and around that was even better. The people who came to the workshop left feeling energized and encouraged in their writing. They had heard for themselves that there were many ways to come at this craft, and many ways to practice it.

I’ve spoken before of the becoming-ness of being any kind of artist, the fact that you never “arrive”, because there’s no finish line or final exam. You’re just always being, and becoming, what you are. It’s an unfamiliar concept in a goal-oriented society, where results and the bottom line and the end of the day are the standards by which success is judged.

Jake reminded us, “It’s not the inn at the end of the day, it’s the road that matters.” Listening to him, I remembered that I write because I love it. He spoke of seeing us as amateurs; that is, as lovers of the art. Even if you earn money at it, you can still be an amateur in the sense that you do it first and foremost for love. Sometimes I get caught up in the necessity of making a living, and I forget that.

So now I’m back in my office, with the dog snoring on the floor. Yesterday’s camaraderie with other writers and last night’s fun and frolic and food are in the past. I have another book idea, and I have a new friend and inspiration.

You can’t write in a crowd. (Dan Needles says he can’t even write with music on.) But sometimes you need to be in the crowd of other writers. It feeds your soul, and reminds you that you are part of a group. You might have to work alone, but there are a lot of us out there, all being alone together.

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