A Conference, Some Smells, & My Darn Emotions
I have a regret. During the Cherry Tree Young Writers’ Conference, I didn’t embrace it enough. I didn’t take enough pictures, capture enough smiles. I wish I had taken into deeper account that I should record and write down my thoughts. I wish I had more in-depth conversations, suggested more books, more writers. The list of works suggested to me isn’t nearly long enough. The conference seemed to end just as it had begun.
As festivities for the Fourth of July dwindled down, and I returned to the Rose O’Neill Literary House, work went into hyperdrive in preparation for the conference. In the two weeks leading up to the big event, my fellow intern and I busied ourselves by organizing information folders, making name tags, and creating an eye-catching welcome board complete with profile photos, paper cherry blossoms, and a totally “symmetrical” layout. I also had the pleasure of helping with the first two printing runs of the conference broadside, “Runaway Military Surveillance Blimp Drifts from Maryland to Pennsylvania” by former Literary House director Dr. Jehanne Dubrow. The real fun began once we welcomed the other interns, students hired specifically for the purpose of the conference. Tuesday night, we all met in the Literary House and talked logistics. Our visiting writers, Drs. H.G. Carrillo, Julie Marie Wade, and Jehanne Dubrow, arrived soon after for the welcome dinner. We ate tacos, told jokes, and shared plenty of laughs to last us for eternity.
We welcomed the fresh, dewy faces of the high school students on Wednesday morning. After they moved into their dorms on the Western Shore and met the interns who would act as Resident Assistants, we paraded them over to the Literary House for a warm welcome speech given by Dr. Hall. The interns and I then gave the students a brief tour of campus. We showed them Smith Hall, where workshops would be held, followed by the library and then the dining hall where we promptly had lunch punctuated by excited chatter about our favorite writers.
Each day of the Conference began at 8:00 a.m. and lasted well into the evening. I had the pleasure of being one of the interns in the poetry workshop with Dr. Dubrow. She focused her workshops on writing about scent, the least described sense in writing. With her she brought perfume samples and gave us different prompts for each scent; for example, write about a person or a memory, real or fictional, that the perfume evokes. My favorite perfume was called Seville a l’Aube, a perfume with notes of white floral, citrus, and beeswax. I learned a lot about myself from the poetry produced from this perfume. While everyone else wrote about fictional, sultry characters, this perfume reminded me of baby body wash.
Workshops were not the only highlight of the conference. We also hosted several faculty readings and two open mics for the students. The interns also participated in a reading as a way to show the high schoolers what a positive reading environment the Lit House cultivates. Even though they were younger students, and I have read before, I still felt a rush of nerves before reading my work. I had nothing to worry about though, because afterwards, Drs. Carrillo and Wade each shared their praise. Hearing such commendation from two published writers really boosted my confidence as a budding writer, and I know the high schoolers felt the same way.
The evenings belonged to fun and entertainment. The first night we showed the movie Moulin Rouge and ate popcorn in the college’s oldest theater, Norman James. The second night, the interns played board games with the students, like Scrabble or Settlers of Catan. One intern brought a literary-themed expansion pack for Cards Against Humanity. Many of us spent a majority of the night gathered around the table in the print shop laughing hysterically.
My overall favorite part of the conference was the moment we showed the high school students the letterpress print shop. I gave a demonstration of how to use the Vandercook press, and each student had a chance to give it a try. Finally, Dr. Dubrow’s finished broadside came into full view as the students each printed their own, marveling at the way image and text illuminate each other.
Saturday, though it was pouring rain, remained just as active. In the afternoon, we said our goodbyes to our writers and students. I believe the weather reflected everyone’s mood, a sad but cathartic relief as yet another Cherry Tree Young Writers’ Conference successfully ended.
I feel that sad relief all over again as I realize my summer internship at the Literary House draws to a close. Never did I expect to have such a positive experience working here. I learned so much without realizing the amount as I worked on each assignment given to me. Knowing myself, I expect to spend even more of my time at the Rose O’Neill Literary House, whether it is to make myself a cup of tea in the mural room, to lead another meeting for Poetry Club, or finally to take that evening workshop in the print shop. I’m leaving now, but I’ll be back soon.