“If the words are alive….”

“If the words are alive….”

My life recently has been a seemingly endless string of Julia Cameron’s artist’s dates. It’s been a month since I climbed to the upper deck of the Megabus and traveled to Chicago for AWP . Though I live in Milwaukee, less than two hours by car, train or bus, from Chicago, I rarely get there. I was born directionally challenged with small-town girl blood still flowing in my veins. Milwaukee is a smaller, manageable city with a big-town friendliness and feel. It has become home, with occasional trips to fill my mountains, trees and oceans needs. Chicago scares me. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love the energy and the pace of big cities, but I can only take them in small bites, or I feel overwhelmed and a bit claustrophobic. I need more sky than big cities offer. I’ve dreamt of living in Paris, but I suspect I’d be better off planning to live in Paris for a month, rather than forever.

Chicago, the small slice of it I saw as I scurried from workshop to workshop at AWP, did not disappoint. I can’t quite say the same for AWP. Don’t get me wrong. I learned a lot. I listened to some fabulous, and some not so fabulous, speakers. But the schedule, the pace, the format itself was grueling. There was no free time built into the schedule. Workshops went non-stop, so if you took a break (as I did and had to), you knew you were missing something.

Because I left for Paris not long after AWP, I had little time to review my notes and process my thoughts. In going through them yesterday, I was somewhat surprised by the event that continues to resonate most with me. It’s one I went to at the last minute, changing my mind from a different workshop I’d intended to go to. I went to a reading by writers for The Sun. And, the writer, the person who has continued to replay in my mind, is Sy Syfransky, founder and editor of The Sun. When he approached the lectern, he gave off a fading hippie vibe. Lanky, quiet, he seemed, like many writers I know, an introvert compelled to write and share with a world full of extroverts. He read from his notebooks, which he’s compiling into a book to put out this year. Some of my favorite quotes:

“…If the words are alive, they don’t have to show up wearing expensive ties or Italian suits.”

“…I edit until each paragraph has lost the ten pounds it gained over the winter.”

“The goddess of language laughs at me.”

“Why do I imagine that my sentences need to be better dressed than I am?”

Below is a clip I found from a different reading held during the AWP days. Sy is introduced just before the 15 minute mark, so his section is about a 7 minute watch/listen; though why you would skip Poe Ballantine and Cheryl Strayed is beyond me. Enjoy.

More belated AWP updates to come. And Paris too. If you made it to AWP, what stays with you?

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