I just got back from Louisville, KY, where I was part of a reading on Friday evening, and where I taught a class on constructing narratives at the Writer’s Block Festival on Saturday. The reading was held at the Bard’s Town, a restaurant and pub, and, yes, you guessed it, a Shakespearean theme. What writer wouldn’t love a place where you can order “The Shrimpest,” “Midsummer Night’s Greens,” or an “Iambic Pork-tameter.” There was an open mic, and then three of us old-er timers read. The young son of one of the other writers was attending his first reading. He laughed at my jokes and told me later he liked what I read. His mother said, “Ah, it’s his first author-compliment.” I listened to people read with heart and conviction, and this after the tragic news from Paris. The world is a wild and crazy place, and sometimes all we can do is keep moving our words about on the page.
The next day, hundreds of people gathered at the Tim Faulkner Gallery for the Writer’s Block Festival. Readings, panels, classes, a Print & Resource Fair. I renewed the acquaintance of old friends and made many new ones. I, and the sixteen folks in my storytelling class, sat around a table in a space that was curtained. Entering felt like attending a séance, and who’s to say we weren’t because we were talking about the magic of storytelling and its power to attend to the world, and even to channel both the living and the dead. I loved my time with my group: Kyle, Becky, Sarah, Teaberry/Carol, Laura, Amy, Charlotte, Holly, Lee, Melissa, Chris, Ellen, Amanda, Kay, Jessica, Katie—and even the calico cat who wandered through the curtains; I’m sure if she’d had thumbs, she would have been a writer, too.
The evening ended with a literary death match, the new craze that’s expanding around the globe. The death match consists of four local writers doing 7-minute readings to compete for the crown. I’m usually not one to favor calling attention to the fact that all writers compete against one another all the time, but this was all in good fun, with a wise-cracking emcee, Adrian Todd Zuniga, to keep things on the rollicking, slightly absurd side. It proved to be a great way to bring the festival to a close with laughter and camaraderie. And did I mention it was held in a whiskey bar? Apparently, it’s not hard to find bourbon in Louisville.
The point of all this? For two nights and a day in Louisville, the mood was celebratory. I talked with people of all ages and ethnicities, all of us brought together by our common love of the written word. The world may tell us that what we do is foolish. What good can our scribbling possibly do? To this I say, how can the world possibly do without it? How can we ever hope to survive without the individual voices—distinct and full of passion—rising up from the chaotic and the nearly impossible to understand. But we keep trying—to understand, I mean. We keep writing. We keep telling stories. We keep trying to shape our complicated world into something that makes sense. So, to all the people I met in Louisville, and to all of you, I say, love what you love without apology. Keep writing. Keep doing the good work.