Down from the River

Coming down from a Bear River Writers’ Conference-induced high is not easy. Of course I was delighted to see my family again– my son started shrieking with delight when I walked in the door and I kissed him repeatedly– but now he’s in bed, my husband is working on his motorcycle, my in-laws are watching television, and everything about real life (clothes to unpack from the laundry basket, bed to make, bathroom to clean) seems exhausting.

I was so thankful for my Bear River scholarship this year, because this is certainly one of the finest writing conferences available, and since the German school year runs through late June, I don’t know when I’ll be able to attend again. This year, I hung white-knuckled onto every shred of experience– coffee in the cafeteria at breakfast, tables full of books, authors’ voices, the click of keyboards. What makes this conference so great? First of all, it uniquely focuses on new work– writers do not bring previously crafted pieces to their workshop, but strive to create something original during the four day conference. The atmosphere is congenial, not competitive. The surrounding environment– Camp Michigania and its heartbreaking vista of Walloon Lake– is unmatched. And of course, the calibre of the published writers recruited to lead workshops is beyond impressive: former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Haas helped with initial conference plans, and this year’s faculty, with their lengthy lists of publications and fellowships and accolades, continued the tradition. One of the most endearing aspects of the conference is the ability to have conversations, both ordinary and sublime, with famous writers. You can seek advice about your writing, talk about a poem you both love, or complain about the fact that the coffee ran out.

I am really going to miss attending BRWC. It might be years before I return, but in the meantime I will remember the last lines from Jane Hirshfield’s poem, “Each Moment A White Bull Steps Shining Into the World”:

“that you came to love it, that was the gift.
Let the envious gods take back what they can.”

Listen to Jane’s beautiful reading of her poem here. Thank you, Jane, for the reminder that simply loving a thing is most important, regardless of whether or not we can keep it for ourselves.


4 thoughts on “Down from the River

  1. Sarah,
    It sounds amazing! How much fun, and I’m glad you got to go. This is another one I would like to attend at some point–how did you go about getting a scholarship for it? Congrats again–2 weeks until RCWP–can’t wait!!

  2. Sarah, it was lovely to meet you at BRWC. You have an amazing writing talent and a huge heart. It will be such a privilege to follow your blog. I know a lot of young women with similar values who are trying to carve out humane ways to live with young children on this beautiful, endangered planet. Some of them are bloggers. I have included a number of them on my blogroll on my blog. As I follow you, I will include specific references from time to time.

    So glad I met you before you set sail. I want to be part of the wind that fills those sails.


    1. Shirley, thanks so much for your comment. I am excited to follow your blog as well! You were an inspiration at Bear River and I’m so glad our paths crossed. Keep in touch.

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