September 26, 2013

Workshop Therapy

By Jeannette Bodnar

Hello Thin Air 2013!

This is my second year blogging for the festival and though I’ve gotten out of the gates a little late, there are enough events left that I’m still part of the race.

Tuesday evening I made it out to my first event of the year. Entitled, "Changing the Family Channel", the main stage welcomed Lauren B. Davis, Andrew Kaufman, Ann Shin, and Cassie Stocks.

Tuning into the Family Channel.

When I arrived at MTYP I found a seat, scoped out the wine and cheese table and immediately recognized faces from last year’s festival. Even with the familiar faces, I never know what to expect at Thin Air events as each venue brings along a different mix of personalities and energy with it. I contemplated trying the Chai Tea Monterey and noticed the man beside me, a familiar face from last year; and though I’m sure he didn’t recognize me he was polite enough to pretend he did. We shared our mutual scepticism of beverage flavoured cheese and updated each other on the progress of our personal blogs. I admired that he had last posted in 2010, as I have only written about five drafts ever, and have deleted anything I published immediately upon sobering up the next morning. The saddest part of this being that I lied and said I had written at least ten drafts, as though that would somehow make me a more accomplished unpublished internet author.
Did I mention that I’m as good at small talk as my socially awkward eighth grade self? 
As our conversation came to an end I made my way to the wine bar. The bartender smiled at me as I doubled up on napkins, a response to the “red wine on white canvas” art project that took place on my outfit last year. I perused the raffle prizes and returned to my seat. Massive apologies, again, to the lady in the aisle seat who I had to pass several times that night.
I settled in with my blogger luggage: giant purse, camera, camera bag, Thin Air standard issue notepad, pen, back-up pen, pencil in case I don’t feel writerly with my pen, raffle ticket, wine, decoder ring…

*Decoder ring not shown.

And Charlene Diehl took the stage.

As always Charlene began the evening with all the right words, the right energy, and the right introductions. I’m not sure how she does it every year, but every time I’ve ever seen her she’s smiling, she knows just the right thing to say, and I swear to you the woman DOES NOT sweat. I think she might be a cyborg. Just sayin’

Anyhooo… the first half of the evening the authors read their work. One after another they read excerpts that explore families, and like families, were sad and funny, and nostalgic but hopeful, and simple but complex, and beautiful but tragic, and strong.
INTERMISSION (more awkward conversation, more wine, more apologies to aisle seat lady)

"That jalepeno jack cheddar is calling my name."

Now, usually at main stage events an author will read his or her work and then discuss it. However at Tuesday’s event things were done differently. The authors read their works in succession then broke for intermission, and when we returned we watched a short film directed by Ann Shin, a compliment to her poetry collection The Family China.

What happened next was surreal. We all, the audience, sat through this film in which people broke antiques (vases, porcelain dolls etc.) and explored what emotions, thoughts, and feelings that process brought about in them, and collectively there was this feeling of reflection and nostalgia that overtook the room. You could feel everyone mentally working through their own baggage and identifying with the people on the screen. And, because the authors had already explored so many universal themes (like alcoholism, aging, loss, and relationships) of family dynamics, it became this moment where, I think for many people in the audience, their own fragile pieces of self were somehow broken or at the very least chipped. And in the middle of this therapeutic storm of self-reflection   Lauren B. Davis opens up and shares an intimate breakthrough about the writing of The Empty Room that literally happened moments earlier on stage.

And just like that we were all connected—the writers, the readers, and the unaccomplished internet wannabe bloggers—all wading through the swamps of dysfunction that flooded our minds with family memories.

In all the readings I’ve been to, this one was one of the most prolific in the sense that it clearly explored the creative process. I really felt that I had come out of both a therapy session and creative workshop when the evening ended. In regards to the film Cassie Stocks said that she created mosaics from broken pieces of tiles, and vases, and plates.

I think that’s what great writers do.

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