Okay, so maybe I drank a little too much on days 5-7 at the Lambda Literary retreat to sit down and actually write anything, and now a week later, any commentary is not "fresh."
I do remember Kelley Eskridge's lecture on the writing life. She started by quoting Michael Ventura about life as a writer and what it means: "Writing is something you do in a room alone." Her lecture was probably the best of the bunch. She didn't talk about networking and television interviews (like the last guy; that night we drank a lot and made fun of him, we called him a walking Hollywood stereotypes, I had too many paper cups of wine). She talked about being kind, about community, about what we must do to survive as literary artists--the decisions we must make as writers.
"Being kind," sticks in my mind. It's something you don't hear a lot. Before the retreat, the only attitude I got from publishing is to be better and the best. You know, knock everyone down. You are in here for the win. Anybody you know, you will use like a whore for a blurb. But the Lambda retreat has taught me so much more.
For example, writers must form a community: we all hang in together or we hang alone (or something to that extent), and I am used to hanging alone. Again: writing is something you do alone in a room, and suddenly I flew to L.A. to talk books and writing. We bonded over kosher foods and for once when I say "Raymond Carver" I don't have to explain. I was with my peers and people who I respected. It was my first writing community--and for once I felt like a writer.
Before the retreat, I never called myself a writer. I'd mumble about my latest job venture and shyly walk around my writing. It felt like a shameful hobby, something selfish you do on the computer: that short story you're working on is next to a window of porn and the latest Katy Perry music video. But out in L.A., at this retreat, with this community, it felt just right to say "I am a writer." Whatever I am doing, it is worth something. As a "knight of the pointy table" (a term coined by Nicola Griffith because our critique circle was made of rectangular tables), we are part of building a culture--specifically queer culture.
That is what the LLF retreat has taught me, among other things.
Among other things:
Writers need people. We are not lonely islands.
Just because I did one reading, doesn't mean I'll ever do another one. (Please let my video be lost!)
I can make people cry.
I have talent.
But I have a problem writing stories.
I am a friendly drunk, the kind that spills secrets.
The best way to say goodbye to wonderful people is: See you soon, because it's true. It's like writing, if it's important enough to you, you will find time to do it; it's the same with people: if they're important enough to you, you will find time to see them.
To all my fellows: I miss you all. I will see you soon.
Also: I encourage everyone to donate to Lambda Literary. They are simply a great organization.
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