I’m in a library work room on a Wednesday afternoon. The kids are all with me; Nate is searching for something to read, Casey is chatting with a college kid about Minecraft and coding, and Annie is happily playing a Sofia the First computer game in the technology lab. This is our first week of summer vacation together. Last week was the actual first week of vacation, but we were all separated and scattered.
At this time last week, I was getting off an Amtrak train in St. Louis, ready to indulge myself in a 4-day writing conference. It was my mom vacation, my time to recharge and focus on my work, and a time to meet and befriend other writers from across the country.
Like last year’s conference (Northwoods), my time at the Big River Writers Conference started with some good old-fashioned self-doubt. Am I good enough? Will I be the dumbest person in the room? And, the most frightening of all: Will I make any friends?
And, like last year, those answers were: Probably, Hard to Say, and YES.
It’s amazing how four days of writing can solidify friendships. We could talk literature, poetry, irony, and of course, jealousy, and each of us hold our own in the conversation. But it wasn’t just about strangers at nerd camp, no, it was finding camaraderie through activities like late nights on the rooftop bar, eating at a place called Seoul Taco that seemed to bond us, and running around City Museum in downtown St. Louis at midnight, like little kids.
Friends are hard to make. Writer friends seem to be harder because writing is such a solitary activity.
We bid goodbye on Saturday night, some of us early into Sunday morning. A new friend drove me to catch my 6:40 Amtrak back to Chicago. Another new friend had a long drive back to Colorado. One more was catching a flight to Boston. And so on, and so on, and so on. We’re all back to our normal lives, pre-conference, a few pages of writing heavier, money spent on books lighter, and a few more FaceBook friends on our lists. The work I had to do when I came home from St. Louis has been put on hold whilst I deal with the priorities of my real life…these three excitable library patrons. I know I’ll get to my work eventually. And I know my friends will do the same.
Real life is always there, is always constant and nagging and in need of immediate attention. Perhaps that’s why it was such a treat to meet people in the same boat as I.