Arrived at 7 pm last night, after a 10 hour drive. The backroads of Vermont seem to go on and on and on...But are beautiful, so who cares? Green to the 100th degree, water sounds, cool air (and cold cold cold at night - it's in the upper forties, low fifites at night here, what a change from humid, 95 degree Maryland!), charming little towns with charming little shops. One could hide out here for months and months, happily. There are also moose in this area. I'm so hoping to see one.
Registration was still going on when I arrived, thank goodness, so lots of things to pick up, then back to the Inn to check in. There are four Breadloafers staying there - two poets, two fiction writers. (Which is nice; we had our own little critique of the first night at breakfast this morning.) I saw the dorm rooms and they are small, but manageable, if you don't mind sharing a small space with someone. Twin beds, each person has closet space, shared bathrooms down the hall.
Dinner was just letting out when I returned - we all went to the barn for a welcome from Michael Collier, the Director (and one of my thesis advisors at U of M), and a reading by Eavan Boland (poet) and Joanna Scott (fiction writer). Eavan is, for me, the female version of Seamus Heaney, who I've also heard read - so much rich history and deep thought in her poems. I would have loved to be in her workshop, but am not (alas). I have figured out how the system works here: if you've been to BreadLoaf before, you will, most likely, get your first workshop choice. If you're a newcomer, probably your third or fourth. I will be in James Longenbach's class, which is this afternoon. I haven't any knowledge or experience of his poems or criticism, so we'll see!
The barn has apparently been remodeled, as everyone kept remarking on that. It's a huge room that seats several hundred people, with a stage area and podium. Stadium seating in the back. It isn't until everyone is together that you realize how many people are here! The community is also welcome at the readings.
Rita, my friend who is also attending, and I were overwhelmed. Not hard to feel when you've been in the car all day or in training to wait tables, then waiting tables at dinner, as she is. We're having two totally different experiences, which I'll pass on to you, in case you want to apply for work study. The waiters have to give a reading, put on a skit, and do a 'dance off' with the BL staff. Sounds fun in theory, and will be fun to watch, but a little too 'camp' for me. We've been cautioned to pace ourselves (there is a lot to do here - trips, picnics, dances, movies, lectures, readings, and classes, in addition to workshops - so it'll be easy to overload. I have a wonderful writing community at home, so do not need to throw myself into every activity here. I've done that at other conferences and have regretted not taking the time to go off by myself and work. So, this time, I'm here to work with new poets, be inspired, and hopefully generate the beginnings of some new work.
After the readings there is a social every night (tea, coffee, desserts), which is also another way to meet your fellow writers. Michael had a great suggestion: that you sit at a different table at meals, whenever possible, as a means of getting to know as many people as possible. Never know what important contacts await you...
One can get the key to Robert Frost's cabin, which is within walking distance down a nearby trail, and I plan on doing that during a lunch period some day. Word to the wise - when you're at a conference, skip a meal now and again and do something that you would be crowded out of at any other time - showering, sightseeing, computer lab (which is where I am now, writing while others are at a lecture). Pick the things you want to do ahead of time and make a schedule for yourself, because it's hard to keep track. But also be flexible. You may hear of other activities you'd rather do instead of what you've already chosen.
Some other details:
Meals at BL, if you are not staying on campus, are $5 - breakfast, $10 - lunch, and $15 - dinner.
Lectures are from 9-10 am
Workshops are 10:10 am - 12:10 pm every other day. (Everyone meets on the first full day.) About 10 people per workshop.
Classes vary - can be very early (7 am) or later in the day (2:30 pm). Sign up is two days before each class, some have handouts to read prior.
Readings by faculty every night, as well as the waiters (work study)
Off to prepare the workshop packet for class today. One of my poems is first on the roster for critique, which I'm glad of - better than waiting for Saturday's class to discover what kind of workshop leader James will be in relation to my poetry.