Last week, author Liza Dalby came to spend an evening sharing dinner and conversation with my Creative Nonfiction workshops as the second guest in my/our new (as of this year) evenings-with-our-authors series.
And because these are my Creative Nonfiction workshops we’re talking about, first we had to eat. I mean feast. I mean four different (and all individually remarkable) asparagus dishes harkening the spring season, and that’s just one corner of the vegetable table. Anne Hoffmann was nice enough to host us and share her paradisiacal backyard gardens (thanks again, Anne!), setting the stage perfectly for Liza’s presentation entitled “Japan, the Seasonal, and Myself,” a talk that provided insight into how one’s early fascinations can become one’s constant explorations, and what one’s sense of time might have to do with how one perceives, and speaks to, the observable world. We devoured mochi and salads and roast things and strawberries, watched the sun set over the newly planted tomato fields beyond the fence, caught up with one another, shared our thoughts on Liza’s memoir-in-seasons East Wind Melts the Ice, talked about the history of the novel and the future of books, and, at the end of the night, raised an extremely respectable little-over-$1300 for the Japanese Red Cross… all because of a conversation had a couple of days after the earthquake about the actions of writing and the tenderness of our sense of story after reading Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun.
The most rewarding aspect of these evenings-with-our-authors events is, for me, the way in which any individual writers’ sense of purpose can be so heartily enhanced by an opportunity to talk with authors about the writing life itself… how books are born, what is messy and perpetually unfinished about them, why we are compelled to do this work of inventing books we must write. And furthermore, why it matters that a multiplicity of voices speak for what is human, what is true, and what is meaningful to us as people. Because we share this work of carving out our sentences and our fragments communally, no matter where we are in the process, and that makes for a fundamentally fascinating kind of community we can find in one another. The real beauty of teaching my Creative Nonfiction workshops has, over the last seven years, turned out to be something as simple as this understanding I have that it matters that people write. *All* people. So that they know both what their voice reaches and also where silence lives.
In the wake of the disaster in Japan, it felt particularly great to mail an envelope bursting with checks off after we’d all gone home for the night. What greater blessing than coming together in one’s creative community to share great food and conversation, for the benefit of many others we may never meet. Um, and those mochi were so incredible I’m still thinking about them. (Liza shared her recipe with me – I’ll be emailing it to all who were there shortly.)
I’m already working on next years’ author visits… details TBA as soon as they exist. Thanks, Liza, for coming up to the Central Valley one fine May evening to talk about your beautiful memoir with us!
All photos in this post by the fabulous Sacramento-based photographer (& my lovely friend) Kathryn Palmieri: kjpalmieri (at) gmail (dot) com.