Business or Pleasure? My Time at the Port Townsend Writer's Conference

There were a lot of women at the Port Townsend Writer's Conference. And, there were a decent amount of young women. But I think I was the only one who showed up by bicycle.

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It was 25 miles from my front door to the Airbnb in Port Townsend, WA... which felt long and painful, but nothing compared to past bike tours.

Don't give me too much credit, though: it was 25 miles from my front door to the Airbnb in Port Townsend, WA that would become my home for the week. It was a long and mildly painful ride for me, because I haven't been training, but it was nothin' compared to my past bicycle tours. Still, packing up my bicycle and arriving in a new town provided me the same magic and satisfaction that it always does. My bike reminds me I am powerful and capable, every time I ride. 

Port Townsend felt worlds away. No doubt the ferry ride had something to do with this, but also the act of breaking my routine made me feel like a different person. I wasn't a general laborer at a plant nursery, like every other day: I was a writer, surrounded by writers. Whether we were attending class or heading to the sandy beach, talking about our pets or our aspirations, we were writers. Our obsessive pursuit of the best way to tell our stories unified us. We needed no other common ground than a half-finished memoir.

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Whether we were heading to class or the sandy beach, we were writers.

 

I had the honor of hearing twelve talented people read rough-drafts in their own voice. It was an intimate experience. Sometimes they'd  choke with emotion, rattled to hear their own story falling from their mouths into a silent room of strangers. But a week later, we were hugging and exchanging email addresses and promising to stay in touch.

Our stories are powerful. They bring us together.

The most valuable thing I gleaned from the conference was the circle of writers who continue to support me. I have two groups of people who now share work with each other, offering feedback and encouragement. 

These days, feedback is even more precious than chocolate. I write in a vacuum, and have no idea if a chapter is working or not until someone else reads it. It's like that classic philosophy question: if a tree falls alone in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a chapter sits in my computer with no one to read it, does it carry a story?

Thank you to all my friends, family, and strangers who continue to encourage me. This memoir, once written, will be dedicated to every single one of you. 

PS: If you are an aspiring writer, please register for a writer's conference. Anywhere, everywhere, do it. Writing is a solitary, often isolating activity, but when you go to a conference you suddenly remember you're not alone.