8.13.2017

The rich, chaotic transition from writing conference to real life

CC by 2.0 photo credit, top: Richard Hurd, "Black-capped Chickadee in flight" (Sept 5, 2012)

The annual denouement following my time at Centrum is always a time fraught with conflicts. I'm forced to catch up in real life, while mining the riches I've unearthed from the conference.

It means shifting energy away from that strange paradoxical continuum of decompression-meets-intensity toward the normal 24-7: ordinary schedules, domestic concerns, work-related commitments, family demands.

And always, health concerns. New symptoms may or may not arise, but the biggest indicator for me is fatigue, because it can be hard to know its root cause. When I make this yearly pilgrimage to the Port Townsend Writers Conference (PTWC), I come away well rested in one respect, yet exhausted.

It takes at least as many days home as I spent away to return to Normal. And my sleep. Yegads. So out of whack. I didn't even leave the time zone and I feel jet lagged!

Yet I feel like this chickadee in flight, rising from a phoenix-like occupation after 10 days away from Real Life.

7.14.2017

Pre-Centrum Silent Writing Retreat: Photos


Guess where I am... 

It's not hard to guess. I'm in Port Townsend for my annual pilgrimage to the Port Townsend Writers Conference.

The official conference starts Sunday, but it's my habit to go up the Thursday before for a personal writing retreat, something I refer to as a silent retreat because I limit my interaction with other people during that time.

It's one way I unwind before the intensity of the writing conference hits. I think of it as doing yoga in order to achieve meditation. The former, after all, exists to prepare for the latter.

What's the plan?

My goals are fairly simple this year. I didn't sign up for a daily workshop this year, opting for the "residency" option instead.

I'll spend this weekend writing drafts to complete a poetry chapbook I'm working on (I've already written one poem, just this morning, and have six left, which my goal to complete all of them to draft level by Sunday night).

Once Monday morning hits, I will switch gears and launch into a project I started at last year's conference: generating new work toward a book of creative nonfiction, personal essays, and experimental forms addressing the topic of my dream life. My writing schedule will consume all of my mornings and a few of my afternoons. If I am an early riser, I might pop in for a few early AM free writes.

Meanwhile, I'm reading Ursula K. LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven and have other books on my Kindle that discuss the science of dreams that I can read for inspiration.

Where I'm staying

Those of you who follow me know that I normally take my 25-foot travel trailer up the conference and opt for a camping experience at Fort Worden rather than a dorm-life experience.

I love doing this because it affords me a nightly (and daily morning) campfire and the opportunity to cook for myself. I like being close to the beach and appreciate the fresh air and laid-back vibe of the campground.

However, this year I have split my 10 days into a 3-day silent retreat at a local Victorian hotel followed by 7 days in the Fort dorms (like everyone else).

Over the last year, Fort Worden switched their campground reservation system to the state parks utility. They did not open up reservations to the park until March, and by the time I was able to register, the entire campground was booked!

I'm a bit sad to miss out on my campfires and home-cooked meals, but much of what I value at the conference exists in the people I enter while I'm there: the hard-core regulars who have become a kind of second family to me, and the brand-new seekers who bring new ideas and energy to the event.

Even if I'm only attending as a resident (meaning, no morning classes), I will be taking 3 afternoon mini classes, attending the evening readings, the post-reading open mics at the 262, and will take all my meals at the Commons... all great opportunities to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

The pictures above illustrate the magical place I'm inhabiting this weekend pre-conference.

Time to decompress!

The weather is perfect: 70s with a cool breeze, sunny, great for sleeping, walking, writing, and decompressing.

There will be a luxurious lavender bath salts soak tonight, home-cooked breakfast and lettuce wraps for dinner (I picked the kitchenette-equipped suite for this reason), a fresh pedicure, and a downtown walkabout so I can visit my favorite Port Townsend haunts. Usually the walkabout includes a trek through the bookstores, a couple of galleries I favor, the bead store, the candy and ice cream shops, and the general store, where I always find a great pair of new shoes.

I have reserved a week from today for a possible trek up to the Sequim Lavender Festival, should I feel like I've made the most productive use of my week. I'm also thinking about a Starlight Room reward for later next week, for the same reason.

But only as long as I don't miss the Whiskey and Pie Night next week, which has become a regular social feature of the conference, thanks to the clever creativity of organizer Sam Ligon and author Kate Lebo. Nor will I miss any wiffle ball pickup games with Jordan Hartt, Philip Shaw and the rest of the bleacher bums!

Before I go... my latest news 

I'm happy to report that The Broken City has accepted my poem, "On the Day After Gary Ridgway's 48 Confessions," for reprint in their upcoming "Death" themed issue.

I continue to write daily for 5 different publishers (SleepyHeadCENTRAL, the American Sleep Apnea Association, Health Union, BioNews Services, and the American Association of Sleep Technologists, and this makes me super happy.

I've also launched a literary series for SleepyHeadCENTRAL called "Vitamin Zzz" which focuses on sleep-related poetry and short prose which you might want to check out (here).

For now, it's sayonara. I've got some words to write and some time to fill with silence. Happy Summer!

~Tamara