Winter Writing Marathon

Yesterday I ventured to Lincoln for the Nebraska Writing Project's winter board meeting, and afterwards I participated in the annual winter writing marathon. If you're not familiar with writing marathons, here's the format in a nutshell: Writers gather and first proclaim that they are in fact writers, we read a Hemingway quote from A Moveable Feast (this quote has become a Nebraska tradition), and then in small groups we set out to wander and write. Groups set a time limit...sometimes it's 10-15 minutes of individual writing time, then we meet back up and share what we wrote simply to share. We don't give feedback, praise, criticism, etc. A writer reads, and the group simply thanks the writer for sharing. It really is a pure process. The group I was in yesterday visited Morrill Hall and the planetarium and then we wandered over to The Mill in the Haymarket. The entire group then met at Indigo Bridge bookstore for a final read around.
Group shot after the final read-around
It was a much needed three hour session. I felt very cleaned out on my way home and more at peace with life. It's crazy how cleansing writing can be for me.

Here are a few of the pieces I started yesterday:

At Morrill Hall 
It's refreshing to hear children's voices bounce off the walls of this dusty museum. One little boy, about six, is fascinated by the elephant skeletons. He stands and stares at these massive remains and begins talking rapidly in a language unknown to me. He beckons two middle-aged gentlemen to join him in his awe. Soon he darts to another display--pauses to take it all in with mouth agape and eyes wide--and then flees to the next room as if he's afraid the museum will close before he gets to see all the wonders this place holds. 

Suddenly the boy I've been admiring fades from sight and I'm left alone in this echoey room. It's just me and the bones and my thoughts. I stare ahead, my pen hovering above my notebook not knowing where to go from here. History surrounds me, but my mind is as blank as the page on my lap. But before my mind can get the better of me and twist this refreshing void into a mess of tangled what if's, a new group of toddlers wobbles in to proclaim their awe at the state's first inhabitants. 

Composed in the car on my way to Lincoln
If I were to build a house, I'd build it with my bedroom window facing east so I could watch the sun rise and bleed a brilliant warmth of orange and red and pink. I'd let it wash over me and accept its call to a new day. 

At The Mill
This semester I'm having my Comp II students read, write, and think about place. I wanted to give them chances to explore communities so they could begin to see value in community and maybe even find their place in it. This weekend I've asked them to explore and write about two places and I'm curious to see their thinking. I think I will write about this place,  The Mill coffee shop.

I don't remember how or when I found it, but I do remember that I was in high school and it was a time of self-discovery. I remember watching people as I drank coffee. They all looked interesting in their muted clothing. Their conversations were low and seemed serious, and whatever they were writing must have been brilliant because they barely took a breath to drink their coffee. When they did take a drink, they took long, slow sips and held the mug in both hands as if that mug were something delicate. As they swallowed, a faraway gaze often washed over their faces. I wanted desperately to know what they were thinking and writing and what caused their conversations to be so intense. 

The first time I visited the bathroom in this place I couldn't ignore the chalkboard that hung on the wall near the toilet. I savored each chalky sentiment and even copied them down on a napkin to be used as writing fodder later, a sort of bathroom plagiarizer. 

Each time I come to Lincoln, I visit The Mill to relive that longing I had as a teen--a longing for identity and for community--for a place I could be whomever I wanted. 


Heart's Cry said...

Can you teach adult writers? Can we have a writer's marathon here this summer?

Danielle said...

Heather---I can most def. lead a writing marathon in Ogallala...I've always wanted to!