So, last week I attend a writer’s workshop at Boston’s premiere watering hole for authors. Before leaving the house, I shower, brush my teeth, and floss, per usual. I floss vigorously. I lose myself in flossing. It isn’t until my jaw lands in the sink that I realize I am more than a little nervous.
After walking up and down the Boston street, thinking I have the wrong address, I finally discover the entrance sandwiched between two buildings. Not having the correct Harry Potter spell to widen it, I squeeze through and proceed up the narrow, dingy stairwell last used by Irene Cara in Fame.
But the upstairs, thankfully and appropriately, is a clean, well-lighted place. I take a deep breath, remembering that the workshop is for all writing levels, and I, as a first-time novelist, will be right at home.
The room is buzzing with graduate-degree angst and SAT words. The writers share a camaraderie that can only come from having unprotected sex with each other in 1985. Intimidating, for sure.
No problem. I will picture everyone in their underwear.
I scan the room.
I try not to picture everyone in their underwear.
I ask where Irene Cara is filming her porn movie, because I think I’ll be more comfortable with her.
A young intern tells me I’m in the right place, and leads me to the kiddie table. She puts a handful of Cheerios in front of me. “Have fun with those. Don’t choke now,” she says.
The students settle into their seats and smile at each other with a warmth that can only come from having safe sex with each other in 1992. They pull out their works-in-progress, and update each other on the literary publications they’re soliciting. I ask the person next to me to pass me my sippy cup.
The instructor enters the room, and quickly acknowledges all the familiar faces. He knows this pool of talent well.
I picture my “Hang in there!” kitten poster from 1968.
We each take a turn reading (out loud) the first couple pages of our manuscripts. The 12 women in the room have written about pain, and the monumental journey they have taken to embrace it. The 12 men in the room have written about their penises; one, a Vampire penis.
It’s three hours into the workshop, and the kitten from my poster is losing its grip. I am the second to last person to read.
I finish, and the instructor says, “Wow!” The room is filled with a hush that can only come from everyone wondering what it would be like to sleep with me. I smile.
“That was the most confusing opening I have ever heard,” the instructor says.
The kitten falls to the ground.
“I mean, did anyone else get any of that?” asks the instructor.
Vampire penis says, “No, not at all.” Others shake their head. My neighbor scoops up my Cheerios, because, clearly, I can’t handle them.
The tree slams to the ground, on top of the cat.
“You need to back away from this narrative, and rewrite it, so we know what the hell is going on,” the instructor adds.
The bus-size NASA satellite expected to plummet near Germany changes course and lands on the fallen tree.
He looks at me for a response.
“Hey, I flossed for you!” I say.
The penises wilt; the women consider writing about my pain, and the monumental journey I’ll need to take to embrace it.
I get up and search for Irene.