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  • I am leaving this evening for Sewanee Writers' Workshop. It's a two-week intensive time to focus on a particular manuscript--in my case, a lyric memoir I'd like to finalize. One of the reasons I applied for this program is because it's within driving distance of my home at roughly two and a half hours. Close enough to carry the comforts of home that help me get my best writing done.

    I enjoy travel, get a lot of energy from meeting new places, new people. Many times I experience a flood of writing beforehand, and I did write my first sestina yesterday--not an easy feat! I also feel very inspired on the return, full of stories to share.

    But it's not an effortless process. I've had to learn how to make that upheaval in routine work for me. When I was a little girl, I used to get styes on my eyes when our family went on vacation. The turmoil of the unknown filled me with anxiety, and I realize now, I was empathetically responding to my parents' nervousness. They are both uneasy travelers.

    My most distinct memory from New York city is not seeing the Statue of Liberty by ferry, but walking by a storefront, the owner leaning against the door jamb. He mimed to me--because he spoke no or little English--how to create friction between your middle finger and the palm of your hand. Done enough times, your finger grows hot. Once that happens, he showed me to place it on the stye. The heat draws the infection to the surface so it can be released. I used that technique for years, until I learned that I could prevent the styes with my mind. They were symptomatic, emblems of discomfort, which they aggravated. I felt a lot more control after finding I could check them in advance.

    All of which to say, there is residual fear when I leave home. I was not even remotely concerned about this workshop, since I would have my car with me, and could get anything I need easily. That said, on Saturday, my car broke down and had to be towed to the mechanic. The only place open on the weekend couldn't fix it. I had to have it towed to another shop, and there's almost no way it will be fixed today since any part will need to be ordered. So, I'm catching a ride with a friend.

    I've got to say it scares me to imagine living out of a backpack for two weeks. Add that inconvenience to the fact that my goal is to help my manuscript get closer to publication and you might understand why I'm terrified. I don't feel I've met my writing goals for this summer yet, and it's almost August. The demands of teaching are already starting to creep back in. If I don't write a book, I am scared I won't have time during the fall, even though I've consistently written while teaching too. The voices of threat and intimidation are loud right now.

    I am so grateful for the Cowbird community for that reason. I feel freer here than I ever have to "confess" my fears and to air them. It helps so much to raise them to the light, to realize their relative smallness. Thank you all so much for writing, for reading, for loving these lines of communication and keeping them open.

    I hope to have lots of enthusiasm and confidence and new work when I return. Until then.
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