Leaving the Writers Conference

My friend Julie Gillen attended the Oxford Creative Nonfiction Conference, totally immersed herself in the classes, panels, people, and charm of the town, and then like the rest of us, had to say good-bye. She got to do one thing I didn’t get to do — go to Rowan Oak at night and linger near where Faulkner wrote, and soak in the spirit on the porch of the tall white house. I did get to eat at Ajax with Julie and others of the Nashville Writers Alliance–catfish and black-eyed pea cakes. Julie captures her feelings in the following Guest Blog.


Leaving the Writer’s Conference

by Julie Gillen

The single-cup coffee maker drips into my cup, as if to say goodbye – see you next year – or maybe never.  There is always that possibility.

I compare and contrast the then and the now … the then of the perfect fall day on the Ole Miss campus – college kids scurrying  about like squirrels – sun filtering through the Grove – and me skipping school to boot.

Ahhhh, the reminder of the newness of the old, waiting in the car while Katy [daughter] drops off her application for grad school – waiting, watching, remembering.

Later that evening, alone at the writer’s conference, I meet someone – four people in fact — and suddenly I am in love.  These people understand me and there is talk … and laughter and drinks and hors d’oeuvres,and mingling and jingling and the spouting off of your best lines and life experiences.

The reminder of the newness of the old.

There’s dinner and drinks with your new love – a walk through the magic of the college town at night – still warm, still autumn, still perfect, still young and still new.

And the next day it rains, just a tad.  Your new love does not dwindle, but it looks around a bit and goes in its own direction, just like you.

You sit together during the sessions, a couple here and there – skipping a bit or two – but you all hook up and go to dinner again in the one car and the drizzle of the night.  You eat, you drink, and you wonder if they are thinking about their old loves, back home.

Romance is short and sweet, for sure.

Still, you are in love – your relationship is maturing.  You all hop in the car and drive out to Rowan Oak at night like a bunch of kids – banging on the door looking for Faulkner.

God, Faulkner is sick of this.  You all go back to the Inn and say good night and go to your own rooms because you are tired, you are old.  The clock on the nightstand says 8:30 p.m.

You pack your things so you won’t have to do it in the morning – it’s always worse in the mornings – the sound of goodbye – the absolute closure of the gathering – the parting of the ways.

So here you sit in your white bathrobe from that last conference in L.A. – drinking a cup of coffee and getting dressed and writing all at the same time.

Was it 7 or 7:30 you were supposed to meet them?  You really should write this stuff down, Julie.

So it’s time to step into your final outfit and zip up the suitcase.  Haul your stuff out to the car, meet your new love for breakfast before returning to your old one.

It’s okay, it’s all good.  You are a changed person and you have new friends.  You just dread that checkout , like a shot in the butt that will sting but will ultimately make you stronger, better, and more immune to the dark realities of life.

~ Julie Gillen

Sunday, November 14, 2010


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