On the 5th of July, after carefully checking the campus map and making sure I took it with me, I walked up Jefferson Street and over to the Pedestrian Walkway and to the Hotel Vetro where I sat in the lobby waiting until it got closer to 6:30 p.m. As others arrived and we began to chat, I found that most of them were also there for the buffet dinner and beginning of the classes we had signed up for in the summer writing festival. As it drew closer to the appointed hour we filed into the elevator and got off at the ballroom where the registration table was waiting for us and we each got checked in, were given our name cards with id numbers and a choice of tee shirt, cap or bag. I selected the tee shirt and went into the dining room in search of the table with my teacher’s name card in the center. I picked a chair and deposited my belongings there and then went to the drinks table and filled a glass with icy water and another with iced tea. Soon others joined me at the table and we introduced ourselves. Next was to go out into the hallway and fill a plate with the assorted foodstuffs, all looking healthy and filling. I remembered the vegetarian broccoli soup from last year and filled a small bowl with this year’s vegetarian minestrone soup which was just as delicious.
There were five students at the table and we ate and talked until about 7:30 when Amy Margolis, the program director, went to the microphone and after a few words introduced us to the line of teachers for this session of the festival. Each teacher went to meet his or her students. James McKean, the teacher for Memoir, the sum and total, bearded, six foot nine inch former basketball player, smiled and sat with us. He talked with ease and handed out some papers for our edification. We left the hotel at 9:30 anticipating the week of writing with this master. Jane, from Omaha, Nebraska, a former teacher herself, invited me to ride with her back to the Iowa House where she was also staying and where we met in the breakfast room, not by appointment but by the need for coffee each morning.
This year I was determined not to miss any of the eleven o’clock lectures. Last year, the only one I made it to was the one in which my teacher talked about description in poetry. Each morning after breakfast, I gathered my work and papers and the walking cane, which on this trip was most useful, especially as I headed up Jefferson Street, until I found the Cam Bus, a free campus bus went up the hill. The cane was very helpful in all of my campus walking, but the bus was a great aid, especially the day it poured rain all day. Last year’s experience of getting totally drenched and freezing in the highly air conditioned class room in the afternoon prepared me to bring a big plastic poncho and a bigger umbrella, so even though it was teeming, I was pretty dry.
I was really glad I got to all the lectures – each an hour long and presented by a faculty member ranging from the value of Fairy Tales to Editing like a Zen Master. On the last day each teacher did a short reading. Mr. McKean read from his work about how he met his wife, a former student of his. One lady came all the way from New Zeeland to spend the week teaching and promoting her writing of young adult fiction.