the smell of pumpkins, the sound of voices

Fall is a magical time for children and adults, with transforming leaves, cozy sweaters and hot cups of tea outside in the evening. Along the side of the road, the pumpkin patch calls, as do the apple trees, the carrots, and our small (but loyal) plot of potatoes. It is a time of harvest.

It’s also the time when Prince Edward Island hosts the Pen and Inkling Festival, a festival of books, authors, workshops, and literary awards, which was indeed another success this year. Although I had to juggle swimming, gymnastics, a fall wedding, two babysitters, and my husband at a business conference, I managed to make it to two of the fabulous workshops offered by the P.E.I. Writer’s Guild.

In Saturday’s session, “Hearing Voices: Writing in Character ” with Brent MacLaine, we delved into the world of character.  We explored different speakers,  sensing and discussing the differences between them, and thus in turn creating our own.  And as we wrote, the poems did shape themselves.  I wrote about Minda, a Philippino woman I knew on Boracay who longed for a life in Canada, while the sweetie next to me jumped immediately into a southern momma living check to check, hauling on cigarettes.  More practice is definitely on the agenda for me.

Sunday morning another group of us came out bright and early to spend some time with performance poet, Tanya Davis, and to catch a few tricks of her trade in a workshop entitled “Page and maybe stage: writing for performance“.      Twelve of us sat around several large tables, absorbed in the technique and practice it takes for Tanya to do what she does – write for performance. Write it out loud, she suggests, say it and feel it. Practice it everywhere.

I laugh, thinking back to my time at the Beijing zoo: Leila, engrossed in pandas and water snakes, and I, book in hand, loudly pronouncing my Mandarin verbs over and over to the hopes of burning them to memory. People stared, children pointed. But I learned.

Tanya asked us to ditty a little poem about how we felt in that room, and I thought I would share this with you.

“drinking in learning”

bright eyes, watching
engaged, experience
to the table we bring
our homes, our lives

we gather in hope
of exploring together
the vulnerable places
we all go sometimes

others in from our loneliness
questions to our own voices
pens scratch on paper
lives running side by side

songwriters and artists
with each common purpose
the darks of our souls
come so eager to light

our differences make us
our experiences grace us
a group of true writers
in heaven’s delight

And so another fun writing weekend is under my belt, as I plunge hopefully into the proposal for my second book, although the first one remains gently poised in the publishing ether that is the world of the writer’s query. But as writers and artists we must continue to wonder, in Tanya’s words, “If i make it, will someone take it?”

Have a look at her video, “Art” and decide for yourselves.

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