The Spill


or, What I learned at writing camp:


It is pointless to bring books. After writing for 4 or 6 or 8 hours, I do not want to look at more words, what I want is a cocktail and to talk to other writers.

What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? – Annie Dillard

One pie-slice of brie is not enough to snack on while writing. I can pound down the entire wheel.

People read memoir for 2 reasons:  (1) “I wish that were me!” (eg: EAT PRAY LOVE); or (2) “I’m so fucking glad that’s not me!” (eg: RUNNING WITH SCISSORS)

8 days without walking or talking to my dogs is 7 ¾ days too many.

IMG_0689I can wear flannel pajamas in the lobby of my hotel, in a SRO bar, to a bookstore, out to a nice restaurant, and never once feel the need to explain.

Speaking of pajamas … there is no need to bring real clothes, or even bras, to a writing retreat.

It is possible to attend a conference with 12,000 humans and run into the Chair of your English Department at least twice a day.

A story should afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted.

How many writers does it take to decide who should build the fire? Five.

How many writers can figure out how to silence the smoke alarm? One.

I can make small talk about the weather with Tobias Wolff and not even feel weird about it.

I went to a panel titled: “Full Disclosure: How Do You Spill Your Guts Without Making a Mess?” Answer: “You will make a mess. Memoir thrives on mess, and your writing will have consequences.”


What did you learn while I was away?

24 thoughts on “The Spill

  1. jpon

    You met Tobias Wolff? Very cool.

    Among other things, I learned that I am useless behind the wheel without a GPS system.

    1. Teri Post author

      Full disclosure. I met him in the elevator. We were alone, and I could not help myself. He lives up the road from me, so I started with, “Looks like we brought the sunshine with us and it’s flooding at home.”

      I’m nothing if not a scintillating conversationalist.

      And PS everyone: JPon is an excellent panel leader, with quick wit and lots of smart stuff to say —– but you all knew that.

  2. MSB

    I loved flannel pajamas when I was a kid! I once wore a pair to Kindergarten. I really thought they’d pass as an ensemble. If only I had had your kind of confidence. Instead, I let a kid humiliate me and we all know it only takes one something said to close up a soul. I don’t think I’ve owned a pair since. How weird is that?????

    I’ve learned I’m a story teller. All this time, I’ve been shooting myself down, wondering where I fit in. The past few days, I’ve been working on a photo book (my very first one!) and this is what I have learned. I am a story teller.

    1. Teri Post author

      I love flannel pajamas as a grown up. Always have. It’s like falling asleep in a fitted blanket.

  3. independentclause

    I learned long ago that I should listen to you when you say things like “the story should afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted.”

    But since you’ve been gone I’ve learned a whole lot about the solar winds.

    1. Teri Post author

      Of course I can’t take credit for that brilliant saying. I believe someone said they saw it on the wall of the Washington Post, but I’m not even sure of that.

      Solar winds. I’d like a book report, please.

  4. girl in the hat

    Welcome back, Teri! Your trip sounds faaabulous. I’ve never been to AWP and probably will never go, but every time it happens, I feel left out.
    It’s so hard to find the right balance between comfort and affliction.

    1. Teri Post author

      It was fabulous, but mostly because of the writing retreat I had after AWP with Averil, Shanna, Suzy, and Josey. The AWP part was good, but also completely overwhelming and exhausting.

      Alas, no video (thank god!) of the panel. I’d hate to have to hear myself talking with a microphone for all eternity.

      1. girl in the hat

        Damn. Now I’m really the surly teenager, feeling left out of the party. Oh, to be a fly on a wall. Or a flower on the wall. Or a leering gargoyle. *sigh* Post more pictures, please, so I can drool.

  5. Josey

    i learned that it is rare for any planes i take out of the las vegas airport to leave on time.
    i learned that there is nothing as important as taking your writing as seriously as you hope others will one day take it.
    i learned that the best thing you can surround yourself with is a tribe who can show you what’s possible when you do take yourself seriously and who will protect and encourage you the length of the path
    i learned that books have a way of showing up in the most surreal ways and the most surreal times
    i learned that it’s possible for me to spend an entire week in pajamas and not once think, “i should probably get dressed”

    1. Teri Post author

      I, too, never once considered that I should get dressed. Not even remotely on my radar.

      And I still can’t get over how awesomely quiet that house was, all day long, with 5 people in it.

  6. Downith

    That photo makes me smile. Although it also brings back bad memories of wearing my pjs to school in middle school …

    AWP and a writers’ retreat with those women – swoon.

    1. Teri Post author

      Whoa, wait … you must tell this story of the pj’s at middle school.

      And of course I’m dying to know how you and pup are doing.

  7. Catherine

    Amazing Teri! And I’ve been here in the fields fighting with my computer… Although I did have a London hop and met some great short story mates. Twas cool!

    1. Teri Post author

      Just the idea of fighting with one’s computer makes me go all wonky, and worried. I hope it’s fixed!!

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