Things I Learned At Wordstock

Last weekend I went to Wordstock in Portland – an annual literary arts event featuring great authors, books, publishers, speakers, library representatives and more – and rain – and rainbows! So what did I learn?

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  1. Rain is wet, but less wet and miserable when shared with congenial strangers.
  2. Lining up to enter a building is less painful if you know the venue will be emptied first, so you know you’ll manage to get in. (Last year you could line through two lectures before getting into the one you didn’t plan on but went to to get out of the rain.)
  3. Some venues in Portland are truly magnificent!
  4. Sherman Alexie is a fantastic speaker and great fun!
  5. Alice Hoffman is as interesting in person as in her fiction.
  6. Poetry might not be for me, but I did write a poem while listening to poets. Maybe that means modern poetry is not for me. Or maybe it means the poets I listened to were too much alike. (All three were women and I wish there’d been a man to offer a different voice.)
  7. But there was a man sitting next to me. Between us we learned that bus tickets can be purchased by swiping on the phone, absent anything logical like a “pay now” or “complete your purchase” button.
  8. Books are wonderful. Lots of books are lots of wonderful.
  9. Lots of literary magazines encourage submissions, but will any of them accept me?
  10. Lots of local publishers are interested in talking to our writing group, but will any of them really do it?

Watch this space for answers to the last two questions. And while you wait, here’s a poetry writing prompt.

  1. What did you do last weekend? Write one sentence.
  2. Add two more sentences below it. You should have three lines of prose on your page.
  3. Which words did you repeat? Break your lines at these words. (If there are no repeats, lengthen your sentences first.)
  4. Which words could be replaced with ones which rhyme with the repeated words? Replace them, and break your lines again.
  5. Read what you’ve written aloud.
  6. Read it again and count the stresses on each line.
  7. Can you add or remove words so all the lines have the same number of stresses? Or so that there’s a pattern of stresses from one line to the next? Or so that…?
  8. Basically so that you like what you’ve written.
  9. Then stop.

I went to Wordstock.
Listened to authors.
Bought books.

I went to the book fair at Wordstock
Listened to authors and readers of books
Collected lots of periodicals, handouts and books.

I went to the book fair,
to Wordstock and looked there
at books, stocked my brain up
on authors and bought there
too many books, wore out
my shoulders to ferry them
home but I’ll stock up
my bookshelves and brain cells
with dreams till they’re all
overgrown.

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