First There Is A Mountain, Then There Is No Mountain, Then There Is.
January 16, 2011 § 6 Comments
Young Writers: A Sentimental Posterity Post
After 29 years of doing the nearly-impossible every summer, the UVa Young Writers Workshop is going on hiatus this summer while UVa rearranges its face to no longer include our dear Tuttle dorm. The immediate, intuitive support members of the YWW community have shown to each other in the last couple days has been touching, optimistic & exactly what’s needed: little Facebook notes, videos, encouragements that aren’t nostalgic or sad so much as they are reminders that we’re a community that, like so many communities since the internets slithered into being, has long since lived outside the dorm.
I attended YWW as a student in 2000 and again in 2002, & worked on the residential counseling staff from 2007 – 2010. All in all, my time in Tuttle only adds up to 30 weeks, but I was there long enough to see the woman who had been my first-ever poetry counselor become Summer Program Director, long enough to see my first-ever poetry students become counselors themselves.
At YWW my poetry was workshopped for the first time. In the same building seven years later, I wrote my first lesson plan.
During the campwide “genre swap” of 2002, I wrote a song under the stairs, & played it for one Mr. Andrew Gregory. A week later it aired on Charlottesville’s WTJU, & years later I re-recorded it for fellow-YWWer Jonathan Ade‘s film. To this day it’s the only song I’ve ever finished. It doesn’t have a bridge.
One summer, I was given the idea for my ampersand tattoo, which I then promptly forgot & later “had the idea” for it & thought I was brilliant. When I returned the next summer, I was reminded. I owe you one, Veronica.
Young Writers is where I learned that I love to do accents. Nobody’s happy about this.
During the Salty Dog summer of 2009, I had more haircuts in six weeks than I’d had in the last three years.
At the campwide social in 2000, desperately trying to be cool in my new white dress, flannel shirt & boots, & having recently seen The Breakfast Club, I “invented” the ankle dance in order to keep up. I’m not sure how well this strategy has aged but it’s still the only one I’ve got.
YWW: home of the best conversations I’ve ever had about teaching, period.
In four years, I’ve read Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog aloud six times, Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus as many.
I’ve only ever been in one band worth mentioning, & it was called Free Show, & it existed on the balcony between 9:30pm and Suite Time on certain nights.
I’d explain Iron Chef: O-Hill, but the level of surreptitiousness & thievery to which I stooped to make it possible probably doesn’t belong on the internet.
But perhaps most importantly, on my first day of teaching poetry lab under Joe Chapman, I walked into the room with what I imagine was the fake swagger of a new teacher scared shitless & said “Hey, it’s poetry with Joetry!” If I leave no other lasting mark on the earth, the fact that “Joetry” has persisted for the last four years—that the other poets whose names are not so friendly to the “-etry” suffix have still had to take it on (Dougetry, Julia-try)—will be quite enough for me.
Like the tattoo, I only think I came up with that dance, those accents, Joetry, summer after summers’ worth of pseudo-clevernesses & innovations. It’s more likely that YWW created the ideal conditions for me to be me, & me means all of these terribly dorky things. The environment demands our best selves in a way no other environment I’ve found has. Maybe it’s the heat. More likely it’s people working so tirelessly & openly side by side, the freedom to fail humming just over the knowledge that failure is near impossible in a place where someone always, always has your back. If I have to find another way to be my best self in a way that I love, just for this summer, I’ll find it. But dear 2012, look out.