The nine-hour drive back from the Iota Conference of Short Prose last night became more wearisome with each mile. Metaphors abounded – a mile is like a sentence, each small town a paragraph, each visual transition a small piece of prose. With each random thought becoming a brilliant brief essay in its own right. You probably know what I mean, trips home from excitement – the hospital after having a baby, driving home after a good job interview, dinner with friends, a gallery excursion, a hike, a shopping expedition – your brain fills with ideas and plans for the next big (or little) thing.
And then you are back, and slowly you fill with things of daily life, not so exciting. The things you forgot. The things you left undone. I always leave half my stuff in the car, looking like laziness on the surface, but actually another metaphor.
My manuscript for Dumped: Women Unfriending Women was left untouched and behind schedule. The days were filled with foggy views of the ubiquitous Atlantic Ocean, driving between New Brunswick’s Island of Campobello where the conference was being held, to Lubec, Maine, through the customs each time. Lubec, a movie set whose pastel and dilapidated buildings became paragraphs in themselves. And the conference where two of my anthology contributors – Penny Guisinger, organizer of the conference, and Judith Podell, became actual three-dimensional entities. Not just paper and screen anymore but flesh and voice.
Our faculty: Charles Coe whose poems about forgiving his parents escorted me back to childhood, Suzanne Strempek Shea whose tender enthusiasm made that child fantasize crawling into the backseat of her car and falling asleep, and then there was my faculty, Barbara Hurd, on whose mind I developed an unapologetic crush and threatened to make a photo of her into my screensaver. Like a stalker who wants to keep her with him always. It was funny in the moment. Now I wonder if I should delete that. Even the very private and elegant Hurd found it humorous after the first moment of terror…. but that’s what happens at these conferences. We are distilled into small working pods for that magical iota of time, wondering how we will go back home and write alone.
The days were filled with reading and workshopping our small pieces – after all, that is what “iota” means: a very small amount, bit, speck, mite, scrap, shred, ounce, scintilla, atom, jot, grain, whit, trace. It all became much bigger than that.
We wrote about the larger world in miniature, shifting the lens within a small frame from the personal and tiny meaning to the universal. Within the next breath. Paring word count. Stripping away excess. Might I be allowed to be corny and say that we lifted the fog on our words? Yes, it is my blog and I am still ever so slightly within the experience, and possibly well over word count.