Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop: Highlights From Day One


  • After settling into my dorm room, I braved the dining hall for lunch—this wide open area with various food stations. There were trays with papers lining them indicating how many big and little dishes you can have. I had to ask a staff member for guidance because people and food and trays and cryptic paper placemats made me confused. I ended up with a veggie burger, salad, and brownie. All in all: edible. I sat near a stranger so I could be all proactively social, but mostly ate like an awkward dork. Regardless, I persisted and new people sat at the table and I talked to them like a real human.
  •  I decided on a leisurely stroll around campus before returning to my room and attempting to nap. (I’m way behind on sleep these days and wanted to be all alert when it came to activities scheduled later in the day.) This wasn’t a successful endeavor as every sound in the entire building is amplified by the very structure of the building.
  • Onward to the afternoon welcome assembly: Lecture hall. Lots of people. All of them strangers. Hello, anxiety. Oh, but you’ve got this! I told myself. Pick an aisle seat for quick escape. This failed. Someone came over and insisted I scoot in instead of just going around me. (Like, I moved my bag and legs and everything so they could walk around me and they just stood there waiting for me to move instead.) So I scoot a few seats over and end up in a broken seat, then scoot one more seat over, nearly smack middle of the lecture hall. Hellooooooo anxiety! I had this overwhelming urge to peel off all of my skin, but tried to remind myself that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea and the world wasn’t going to end. I then focused on trying to sit like a normal human, not someone frozen stiff with feelings of weirdness. Whether I was successful or not is irrelevant. Or so I tell myself.
  • Next was the workshop meetings where each workshop group meets with their leader in a classroom. Twelve participants, one leader. Not too bad. But they’re still all strangers. (Though I’ve read 25 pages of each of their writings so I feel like I’ve got a modicum of secret insider info.) My workshop leader is Mat Johnson. I met him briefly and listened to him talk at AWP back in February and had specifically chosen to work with him here because he not only seemed intelligent, but it was in that non-pretentious, practical, down-to-earth sort of way. After some introductions, he emphasized the importance of story over making pretty sentences. Mind you, a mere several days ago I posted an article on the Blue Skirt Productions website titled “Content over Craft” with very similar sentiment. So yeah, I’m expecting good things there.

An added plus to the workshop meeting is that I now have a posse to hang out with and I hung out with said posse afterwards and through dinner.

  • Dinner. As you may or may not know, dear me is a vegetarian. I’ve been since I was ten. My parents thought it was a phase, but I totally showed them! It has nothing to do with health, or animal rights, or anything else. I’m simply irrationally disturbed by dead creatures. Anyway, I’m also a picky eater, so as you might imagine this makes eating in strange places (like dining halls) difficult from time to time. The only real feasible option for dinner tonight was the vegetarian lasagna. For some reason, as with many vegetarian meal options, they decided to put every vegetable known to man inside the lasagna. They couldn’t just do noodles and sauce and cheese. Oh, no. Every goddamn vegetable known to man. I really only like maybe five vegetables. Let’s see…there’s carrots, celery, lettuce/salad greens, tomatoes, corn…I think that’s about it. Hence I picked at my food. But later I bought overpriced Clif Bars from the bookstore. So there’s that.
  • Later in the evening there was a reading at an outdoor amphitheater. Supposedly the posse was all going to be there, but I arrived early and only saw a few of them show up and scatter around. No one sat by me. But being a grown up these days I reminded myself that this was not the result of me being a completely worthless sorry excuse for a human—some sort of troll-like creature despised by all whom everyone wants to avoid because, yeeeeesh. No, no. I was just a person sitting inconspicuously alone in an amphitheater. Though I did get off my ass and sit awkwardly next to someone from the posse after a large group of people sat in the row directly in front of me, all lighting cigarettes, the smoke from which was blowing back in my face, making my eyes water.
  • After the readings I skittered back to my dorm room to hide from humanity for the rest of the evening. And now I mentally prepare for tomorrow and consider sleep.

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