Two things have converged in my life recently and seem to have fused in my mind. The first is that my omnivorous reading habits (which I discuss in this post: Bears, Cows and Flies—Oh, My!) led me to a new word. New to me anyway:
Bricolage: something made or put together using whatever materials happen to be at hand, patched together.
I instantly cottoned to the word. It’s from the French and they use it to refer to odd jobs or do-it-yourself projects. Bree-coh-lahge. I love the way it rolls off my tongue. Trés bien!
I’m also a fan of bricolage in the architectural sense. I find I am repelled by samey-samey architecture. Case in point: Breckenridge, Colorado. There are ordinances in this lovely mountain town that require structures—even fast food joints—to build in a Victorian look-alike style. The result makes me shudder. Faux Victorian elements everywhere. I don’t mean to diss the fine people of Breckenridge, but I just don’t appreciate the effort at consistency. I like a community that looks like it grew up over time, and is a mix of this and that in terms of structure and style.
The second thing is that I attended the Wyoming Writers, Inc. conference this past weekend. It was held at the Wind River Casino in Riverton.
I’d like to give a shout out to the staff at the casino for being so cordial and helpful to the writers in attendance. As far as I could tell very few of us spent much time at the blackjack tables or slot machines, so they can’t have made a killing off of us. I especially appreciated Gary. He gave me a personal tour of the Northern Arapaho museum which is housed in a small space near the hotel’s registration desk. He was a real storyteller, jokester and gentleman—an unexpected treasure in my conference experience.
A Wyoming Writers, Inc. conference is a village, and about as bricolage as you could ever find. It has to be in order to meet the needs of the writers in this state who are small in number but diverse in genre and interests.
In the WW, Inc. conference village, the hotel hallways are side streets where you might run into old cronies, wide-eyed newbies or even a sage poet/pilot who’ll give you a wink and an encouraging word.
Open mic sessions on Friday and Saturday nights are the coffee house of this village. You listen, and emit that magical “Ah” at the end of poems, the one that says the poet hit the sweet spot. Or you approach the front of the room yourself, try like hell to hold your paper without shaking, and read the words you have crafted, out loud. The fear subsides as you feel every writer in the room lean in, urging you on.
A miracle: they laugh when they are supposed to, or tear up as you intended. The rush from feeling the impact that your writing has had on other human beings will power your efforts long after the conference has ended.
The village plaza is the general session room where meals are shared, awards are awarded and where town crier Tom Spence announces whatever needs announcing, in a style all his own. You can linger there and share your cringe-worthiest insecurities about your writing with someone you just met, but feel you can trust.
When you enter Lori Howe’s cottage-like workshop space, you feel like plopping down in a chair. Maybe sipping some spearmint tea. Her smile and soft voice invite you into her poetry world. Her writing prompt prods you to invite multiple voices into a poem, as she did in “Old Carbon, Wyoming," where the long-passed voices of a seamstress, a glassblower and a baker enunciate the story into existence.
There is a campfire in this village, too, tended carefully by Joseph Marshall III.
His stories flicker and flare and time dissolves as you lose yourself in his deep-bass voice, learning about—no, experiencing—a different time and place.
His admonition to embrace your writing as a calling lift you and send you home with renewed purpose.
Did you doubt it?
I want to offer my thanks to the Wyoming Writers, Inc. board of directors and volunteers who build this village anew each year in a different Wyoming town.
BY THE WAY
The Writing Wyoming blog is not officially affiliated with Wyoming Writers, Inc. This blog is a project by two writers, myself and Susan Mark. Yes, we are WW, Inc. members and we absolutely support the organization, but the blog and WW, Inc. are separate entities.
Just wanted to clear that up.
Lori Howe has graciously invited us all to consider submitting to an upcoming anthology titled “Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone.” Lori will serve as editor and the publisher is Sastrugi Press. They are seeking writing that “gets at the heart of life in this wild and beautiful state, and which offers readers a lens as unique and authentic as daily life in the mountains, towns, and on the high plains we call home.”
For more information go to: http://sastrugipress.com/books/blood-water-wind-stone/
NOT REQUIRED, BUT SUGGESTED, READING
Intrigued about Joseph Marshall III? Visit his website, and read this Huffington Post article for a taste of his writing and wisdom.
For a look at one of my favorite edifices constructed by John Calderazzo, read this Brevity short piece titled “Lost on Colfax Avenue.” Small IS beautiful!