Where I've Been
I arrived in Anchorage just in time for a hurricane-like wind storm which knocked out the power for two days (plus) in some parts of the city, and then spent a long weekend at the Dixon family's Tutka Bay Lodge across Kachemak Bay from Homer, where there is limited Internet service, so I chose to skip it entirely, then had a visit with my daughters in Juneau, and now I'm home-- finally-- but I'll be off to moose hunting camp this weekend, so out of touch again for a few days. How can you miss me if I don't go away? By January I'll be blogging three times a day as the snow piles up to the eaves. I was at the lodge for a writing retreat with Pam Houston (we had a public chat in Anchorage at the Loussac Library Thursday night about her new book, Contents May Have Shifted, and about writing about people you know, personal stuff, fiction vs. non-fiction, and her growth as a writer and a human being from Cowboys Are My Weakness to now. Pam is warm, funny, generous, and as she would say, a no BS kind of person, which the audience and fellow writers appreciated. She's also one of the hardest working teachers I know-- director of the UC Davis creative writing department, as well as speaking and teaching at classes, conferences, and retreats like this one, it seems, non-stop. She does most of her writing on airplanes. One thing she encouraged us to try was to capture what she calls "glimmers" -- short scenes, images, conversations, moments-- using concrete details and no emotion, in a few short sentences or a paragraph tops-- "glimmers" of things that grab your attention, and which clearly mean something to you on a deeper metaphorical level. Rather than try to get the whole big meaning-of-life essay from these significant moments, she says to write just one detail. The idea is to start small, simply capture a part of that specific moment-- the way the wind blew, the sound of the band, the light coming in the window, the overheard conversation--and then another, and then another, keep them filed until you are ready sit down and fix them up and see where they lead. She gave us this exercise: write one "glimmer" from the last 48 hours, one from 10 years ago, and finally one from anytime. Try it and see what happens. Now, here is a post card from Tutka Bay, with photos of the main lodge and cabins and the refurbished beached scow on Little Tutka Bay across the boardwalk, where our classes were held, as well as some pictures of the area, the water taxi, (it takes about a half hour by boat from Homer) the lodge, meals, and even a cooking class. Kirsten Dixon (and her daughter Mandy, and lead cook, Chef Christian) is a terrific chef. Kirsten wrote the Riversong and Winterlake cookbooks and is working on a memoir. She is a writer herself, which is why she hosts this annual writing retreat for 49 Writers at well below the luxury lodge's usual fees, but with all the same terrific service, food and activities.