For the past three days, I’ve been at a Writing Conference/course in Port Townsend , WA. The Centrum Writer’s series takes place on the campus of Fort Worden State Park, and we met there each day in a small cabin or the main “schoolhouse,” in a freezing cold room. Classes started Thursday night for three hours, Friday from 9-3:30 and then again from 7-9:45 PM and a full day again today, Saturday. Trial by fire. The focus was “Character Driven Fiction and Plot Development.” The subject of character driven fiction is relevant to the novel I’m working on, and I came hoping to get some clearer ideas about how to tighten up some of the loose ends I still see. The course was taught in both English and Spanish by two separate author/teachers. The Spanish speaking group and the English speaking group met separately during the first part of each day and then convened in the afternoon and evenings to share our work and discuss subjects that are relevant across culture and language.
Our teacher, Kathleen Alcalá was of Mexican descent but writes primarily in English. The Latina Instructor was Mariá Victoria, who is both a bilingual attorney in Seattle, and an author who writes in Spanish only. As we discussed plot development, character outlines, building suspense, etc, it was fascinating to hear the places where our cultures and writing experiences diverge and where they are shared. Listening to passages in Spanish the lyrical sound of the foreign words were mesmerizing and compelling. The translations sometimes surprised, while other times I found myself delighted by how much the English words matched my interpretation, of what I’d heard in Spanish. Universally, we all want our stories to resonate with our readers and that is often much harder than it seems. While I didn’t get quite as much from the class as I’d anticipated, it was really exciting to share so much time with so many really talented people, share our work, our cultureand get some feedback on things I’m generating. In the end, I came away with some provocative ideas regarding new directions for my characters and story line, and that part is very exciting. I also met some wonderful people, who I hope to stay in touch with or at least cross paths with in the future.
The other, sugar coated bonus of this trip was that I got to stay at my aunt and uncle’s, one of THE most wonderful places on earth. My aunt and uncle are two of the finest people you could know (I am blessed to have them in my life), but beyond that, they have created such a magical place to visit, that it’s hard to imagine leaving again tomorrow. They are the creators and makers of Townsend Bay Soap Co., one of the premier Washington based soaps (now featured in Made In Washington stores), and frankly, one of the best soaps anywhere. Don’t trust me, I’m clearly biased, BUT lots of other reliable sources will tell you the same thing. (Click this link to check out the cool video from –> The Motely that features Townsend Bay Soaps). An offshoot of the business, is that their home, my guest suite, everything on their property is infused with the amazing scent of fresh lavender, mint, lemongrass, eucalyptus, etc. The smell is instantly relaxing and when I enter their home, everything else seems to melt away and I am instantly at peace. My other aunt lives nearby and makes the liquid version of my favorite soaps. So I go home each time with a bag full of goodies. I love to put the “uglies” (mis-formed bars) in my drawers and closet, to keep the good smell close at home.
(<– Room with a view. The “bar” beneath my window and lighthouse at the point. That blue is real!) My aunt and uncle, my father’s sister and her husband, have created such a unique spot, on the bluff overlooking the straight and lighthouse. This trip, they set me up in their guest suite, so that I could write freely and have some privacy. I had never stayed up here and at first was sad to not be in the wonderful guest room, in the main house. Instead, I had a slice of heaven in my little annex. The room looks out at the water and the beautiful courtyard and gardens below. With the windows open, the sound of the buoy just off shore or the giant ships passing by, lulls me. The silence, otherwise, is complete and I am free to sit here and write, undisturbed. I am writing the blog, working on new chapters for the novel, putting down a few pages for a new story that is fighting to come out… I’m write, write, writing, and it feels wonderful! These times when the words flow and my thoughts take flight, much more abundant of late, are so inspiring. I’m really grateful for these past few days to tap in to that.
(<– What a spot to read or have a drink!) Another treat in visiting my family, is that each time I come, there is some new treat to enjoy in the house or yard. My uncle hasn’t met a project he can’t whip and he and my aunt work side by side to make everything just a bit more special than ordinary. My uncle has created beautiful fence/gates for the bountiful garden my aunt tends, built from the driftwood he collects. He designs new pathways through the gardens, she plants; decks that mimic docks (with a little sail boat for their grandchildren to explore their imaginary seas); gardens filled with whimsy and beauty; and inventions that make my aunt’s soap business thrive. He has constructed bottle fillers; a machine to pull the lavender buds from the stems; an entire system for forming, cutting and aging the soaps, that is poetry to see. If you watch The Motley link above, you can see all of the tools, tricks and gadgets that my uncle created, so that my aunt can make her wonderful soaps. He literally built every detail in their “factory,” and it’s a wonder to see. I would tell you that I call him stud muffin because he is the ultimate Renaissance Man, but he is also one of the most humble men I know, and he would be embarrassed. My aunt would simply laugh, or say “oh lord.” Being in their space is nothing short of bliss and I bask in what they lovingly share with me. Together, they are my inspiration for a life well lived and well loved.
So this weekend was a win win in every way. The sun was out and the sky and sea were blue. I took some time to focus on my writing, the thing that is most exciting for me right now. I got to spend time with both of my aunts and uncles. I had some free time to explore the adorable town of Port Townsend, a place I adore. Put it all together and I was surrounded by love and nurturing and I was working on things that fill me. Is there anything else?
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