By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli
I’m back. Valentino the black cat is once again putting on a full Broadway production to hurry me into serving him his Fancy Feast Primavera breakfast. Chanel, the black and white cat, seconds his enthusiasm. I don’t mind returning to my cats; they’re cool. After nearly a week at the IU Writers’ Conference surrounded by writers and the accompanying intellectual stimuli, returning to the mundane dulls the brain, and I do not mean the cats.
At the Writers’ Conference, I struck up conversation well-published author Wesley Chu. He shared with me his satisfaction of writing full-time. His winning over 6,000 entrants in a British book contest, thereby landing him a book contract, made this possible. He did not relate this history to me in a superior sort of way; rather, he relayed it in a matter of fact manner. A prolific writer, he is living the dream most writers can only envision. I purchased one of his books, asking him for a suggestion about where to start reading in his author’s list. The book is very, very good.
I also spoke at length with another award-winning author, Salvatore Scibona. He and I spoke in Italian about food, recipes, and books, pretty much in that order. While he is not as prolific an author as Wesley Chu, Salvatore writes about one book on an average of every eight years. His invigorating class on language, mind, and words heightened my already orbiting awareness of the critical use of words in my writing.
However, unchartered territory awakened in me throughout Amelia Martens’ class on prose poetry, which sounded like a literary oxymoron. She led us to explore prose poetry’s “resilient, subversive fluidity.” The more prose poetry we read, including hers, the more intrigued I became. Inspired, I began working on an epistle form of prose poetry that first day of the conference. By the time open reading night loomed large, after agonizing over revisions throughout the conference, I read my prose poem to the crowd at the Serendipity in Bloomington. I am generally unfazed by public performances, but by putting my new work in an arena in which I had never written previously, terrified me. Yet I plucked up my courage, took deep breaths, and jumped in the foray. Once in front of the audience, I summoned up my performance know how. Afterwards, Amelia urged me to keep writing prose poetry since I have a talent for it! Who would have thought it? Not I.
One of the most invigorating things about a writers’ conference is the synergy, the exploration new ways and means that revitalize the imagination. Surrounded by talented writers awakens creative muses within me. The art of writing satisfies a need in me, much like my vocal studies and performance did. I cannot imagine doing anything else. As I gaze down the time tunnel, I see light at its end, not death, but a full-time writing life in my imminent future with Valentino and Chanel in tow.
Ciao for now.