But I made it to breakfast. I was happy for a lighter schedule that day, and my first day off from meetings in a while. It is so nice to have them, but they have the exact feeling of a job interview for me. I didn't mind a day off from the stress of trying to be my most interesting self.
I was attending a nonfiction lecture by faculty member Emily Rapp--which (to my happy surprise) also included my fiction professor from the last year, Tod Goldberg. Emily was using Tod's essay, When They Let Them Bleed from Hobart as an example of five things you want to do in nonfiction essay writing. Not only is Tod's essay one of the more moving pieces of writing I've ever read, but it was chosen for this year's Best American Essays. It was apparent why that occurred. The essay is amazing, Emily is a phenomenal teacher, and by the end of workshop we were all sitting there crying, knowing a little more about Tod and a lot more about writing.
For fiction workshop we had some guests leading discussion--TAs who are alumni of the program. They'd come back to talk about critical papers (sort of the academic stuff we have to write as opposed to the creative stuff), which is something I just adore. And since we only had one person to workshop after that, we were out a tad early. My room was being cleaned. I seem to have the worst timing with housekeeping--no matter what time of day they choose to do my room, I will come back and interrupt them in the middle of it. So I grabbed an iced coffee and sat under an umbrella and tried not to melt.
I killed some time with friends reliving the drama in some of their workshops (which, by comparison, reveal mine to be one that functions well and is--to my relief--quite drama free) and then headed in to Palm Springs for dinner.
It's hard to describe where I am in relation to Palm Springs if you've never been here, but the desert is a series of small towns in the Coachella Valley. Our hotel that we stay in now is actually in the city of Rancho Mirage. The hotel we stayed at for my first residency, in 2011, was actually in the city of Palm Springs. I was having dinner that night with my two good friends Dorothy and Faye, and we headed back toward our old hotel, back toward Palm Springs. About a 20 minute drive.
Back toward this lady:
I'd been looking forward to this dinner for some time. We've had a little writing group going over email, and we knew it was important we get together in person when we were all here.
Dorothy and I found each other at our first residency. She is a phenomenal, steady writer and gives the best notes on other people's work. That first rez in Palm Springs, we discovered that we live about 20 minutes from each other and we just got along really well. We've had fiction class together every single term since we started. This is our first quarter without each other, and I miss her terribly. And Faye was with us both in fiction class last summer, when she was graduating from the program. Something about her work spoke to me the first time I read it. She wrote about family with such delicate subtlety. I remember reading it and just sensing I had a connection to it--or to her--I'm not sure exactly which it was, but I felt like this was a person I needed to know. Or did know. Should keep knowing.
We started trading pages over email once we were home. Neither is afraid to be honest with me about things I write that aren't working; both are gracious in how they say that. While we're not always regular about sending our pages, our continued connection gives me hope that I will be able to continue to have readers in my life even after I am out of this program.
More than being good writers and readers, these are just good friends. Somehow our dinner that began at 6:00 stretched until 10:00 and the tables all cleared around us and the streets of Palm Springs were empty. We sat there laughing and trading stories and realizing there were more connections than we could have anticipated before.
There was no way I could have figured out what I was getting when I applied to this program in 2011. Zero. But in so many ways its good for my work and just good for my life. So many good people. Love these ladies.