My favorite thing about conversations (and about the comments section at LitPark) are the tangents. So this Weekly Wrap will be a follow-up to something in the comments thread that had nothing at all to do with writing communities and workshops. I want to talk about summer camp and lanyard.
When Lance mentioned how we should all go to summer camp together, I immediately remembered a picture of me wearing a red feather on my head. As I looked for the photo, I wondered if what I’d find would be too embarrassing to post.
But then, I thought it might illustrate something I do – and maybe you do it, too. I carry a very particular picture of myself in my head. Someone will tell me I’m pretty or sweet, and I’ll look in the mirror and see this kid:
This is me having a big old time at patrol camp. This is back in the days my dad still cut my hair on the kitchen stool, and obviously I did not bother to dry my hair for the photo. Maybe you can tell by the Billy Idol sneer how I take to dressing up in paper headbands and feathers.
I went to patrol camp the summer before sixth grade to become “an officer.” This selection means I was misunderstood to be a child who would not light her patrol post on fire or try to send the kids across the street when they were most likely to get run over.
But back to camp. In the mornings, the girls stood near the flag pole outside of our cabins to do exercises. All the excercises had accompanying chants, and the one I did with great seriousness was the “we must increase our bust” exercise, when we all stood with our arms like chicken wings and tried to touch our elbows behind our backs. “The bigger, the better, the tighter the sweater, the boys depend on us.”
When you look at least four years younger than your classmates and people regularly mistake you for being a boy, camp is just one more place to feel different and alone.
By the end of my week there, it seemed camp had improved some. I’d kissed and slow-danced with one of the camp counselors, and was glad to finally be noticed and included. Okay, sure, this sounds like pedophilia now, but I didn’t know better at the time and spent the rest of the summer searching for his phone number so I could hear his voice and then hang up.
All these years later, as I do readings and meet with agents and editors and marketing teams, I still feel like I’m the kid with the feather on her head, just wearing a nicer t-shirt. Maybe that’s why I like hanging out with other writers so much. I prefer to spend my time with fellow misfits.
When Lance brought up the idea of all of us going to summer camp together, I couldn’t help but imagine what a better summer that would have made. A community that works is where everyone can pretty much be themselves and where some within that community might dare to think more of you than you think of yourself. In the best of communities, you feel inspired, passionate. You dream bigger dreams, take risks, create bolder art, and start to care about others’ work and success as much as your own. Maybe talking about summer camp wasn’t off-topic after all.
Thanks to everyone who visited LitPark this week. And thank you to Karen Dionne and Backspace for showing a great example of how to build a community that will roll up its sleeves together.
A couple last things:
Have you visited Tommy Kane today? I love his blog so much, I actually go through withdrawal on days he doesn’t post.
And I just received the premier issue of The Noveltown Review, in which I appear with Brad Listi, Robin Slick and Lauren Baratz-Logsted. I can’t tell you how GORGEOUS the magazine is – absolutely striking, top quality work. I hope you’ll order a copy. Thanks to Nick Belardes for including me!
See you Monday. Lance is back next week!