This week is the week I'd normally be at the Wilkes Writing Program residency. For the past 3 years I've made my pilgrimage to Pennsylvania to mingle with some of the nation's most caring and congenial authors, playwrites, screenplay writers and poets.
Now for those of you who have not been to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area, (and that doesn't count those who watch "The Office,") Wilkes-Barre is the epitome of Pennsylvania's "Rust Belt." It lacks any true beauty or viable downtown, although it does play host to unsavory buildings and characters, great fodder for those who love the arts.
Every day I would walk, rain, snow, or shine the mile to school leaving the warm arms of the not-so-posh Best Western Genetti Inn to the campus. Rounding the first corner of the brick-lined sidewalk, I'd beeline pass the men and women who hung out at the Quick-Mart smoking cigarettes and begging for cash. At the next corner I'd brush pass what passes as the "theatre," often having to kick away trash and cigar butts that had twirled into the concave entrance during the night. Across the street the circular park filled with the homeless who found there way to a bench during the night, their wakings startling passersby.
I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for a bagel, then crossed the street for my morning java at the Barnes and Noble bookstore, often the stage for many readings during the week of residency. I always bought a book, not able to leave without knowing I'd somehow contributed to someone's climb to fame. A quick pass through at the alley past Boskov's, a clothing store that demanded my attention at least once a day while in Wilkes-Barre, then a dart through the parking lot to the old building that had been converted to the YMCA and I was just a block away.
The campus of Wilkes University gives off a historical air, one I grew to love, but it was inside those walls where other writers, poets, screenplay writers and playwrites gathered that gladdened me to my soul. I had a cohort whose talent still amazes me and whose recent successes have made me proud. Gail Martin, known to me as "Gray," recently published her wonderful humorous novel, "Don Juan in Hankey, PA," a hilarious romp through the world of a small town opera guild. And others I worked beside, like Amye Archer did us proud with her publication. More to come on other alumni!
What Wilkes does have is an extraordinary gathering of artists from around the nation that gather to give of themselves to wannabe artists like me. Sara Pritchard, my mentor was one of them. She encouraged me as a writer, lifted my spirits when I thought I could never do what she asked of me, and made me laugh at myself.
So today I'm feeling a bit blue knowing that another group of talented people have arrived, and taken our places. I'm here missing all of the interactions that had become such a part of my life. It always felt like home there! Smells and shady characters and litter and all!
Writers are funny like that! We are souls that do our best work alone, but no greater group have I ever met that loved the social aspects of sharing others work! I want to go home:)