Thursday, September 25, 2008

Highway of the Damned (and the second part of our writing exercise)

I'm on a short residency trip this week to give a workshop and reading in a town about two hours southwest from home. On my drive yesterday afternoon I took note of how different the Susquehanna River looks here. It's wider, flatter (is that possible?) and far more rocky. The water is low here. When I commented on this at the workshop someone said that the river is "younger" where I am, but I don't understand that logic.

Aside from the pleasant view of the river, the rest of the drive was like I was on the Highway of the Damned. I was given the finger for only doing 75 in the overtaking lane while trying to pass a truck. The woman flipping me off was in an SUV with a wheel cover that was custom painted with her pride at being the mother of someone in the Army.

My directions here were horrible. I went west then east then west again looking for the right exit, which was blocked or something, but the hotel I booked is snuggled down in an industrial park just off the highway. When I finally found it, I was given a room key that didn't work. It's a Residence Inn - a series of low buildings that house four to six mini-apartments. My room has a kitchen. Perfect for microwaving a Lean Cuisine at 10 p.m. and watching Cosby re-runs until you fall asleep. Which is NOT what I did.

The workshop was terrific. There were about fifteen people, and they all wrote and laughed and seemed to have a good time. I forgot that many of the people in the area also submitted poems to a contest that I juried this spring. One was chosen to be poet laureate. Attending the workshop were those whose poems didn't make the cut, and also the winner, which was fine, but it made it a little awkward when someone said at the table pre-workshop, "I don't like you. You didn't pick my poems." She was joking (I think), and after the workshop told me that she enjoyed it. Everyone wrote and they all wrote diversely, and the freewrite part of the workshop seemed to crack the inner-critics of some of the writers. I hope I see them all tonight at the reading and they read some of their work. I enjoyed their personalities and what they all shared.

Writing Exercise Part 2

What is the meaning of your name? Jennifer has Welsh origins and means “fair.” If you don’t know the meaning of your name, look it up in a baby name book. How were you named? Who chose your name? Is there a family story associated with your name? What is the historical context of your name – who shares your name? Do you have a nickname? If so, what is it and how did you get it? Jot down any ideas you have for these questions.

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