Alison and Rita and I did a crit of each others' first thirty pages yesterday, and it took three hours and it was awesome -- like the best of being in grad school again. I love all the feedback I get from readers; I really appreciate it. But there's something particularly useful about going deep into your work with other writers who are doing similarly intensive labor. It's so rare to have that opportunity.
And everyone is so nice! That is not to be underrated, when you're working in close quarters. While we're all pretty ambitious, I suspect, there's a spirit of collaborative ambition here, a sense that while we may be dreaming of fame and glory down the ages, we'd also love that for our compatriots as well. People give each other rides, they cook for each other, they offer time and attention and thoughtful comments on the work.
Last night, the final sharing of our work stretched past ten p.m., and I was exhausted, but also very happy to be there in the Friends' Studio, watching Ginger's strangely wonderful compositions on the projector, listening to Sophie's spooky voice messages.
I didn't always understand all the work; I feel like I've been so focused on writing for twenty years that I have perhaps neglected other arts. Not to work in them myself -- just to enjoy, and appreciate, and let them work on me. I loved all the writing I heard, but I think I was perhaps most moved by Sara's musical compositions -- I would love to have recordings of her work, and sheet music, so I could play at least simple versions of them on the piano. She's working on a song-cycle referencing poems about stone, like Charles Simic's "Stone." So beautiful; I wish I could play her music for you.
Afterwards, when all were done, Regin brought out his fabulous handmade hula hoops. We put on music, and those of us still standing hooped together. A lot of hoops fell to the ground, precipitously. There was a lot of laughter and wine. And sometimes, they stayed up in the air.
Sometimes they were glorious.