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.