June 22, 2011
Stella from Santa Fe
My writer friend Stella in Santa Fe had one of her poems displayed in Santa Fe this week! I have to use the exclamation point even though I can feel my journalism professor cringing all the way from his grave. I'm just so excited for Stella, and I don't care if the exclamation point is silly, as my professor would say. I need to convey how happy I am for my dear friend.
Stella's poem was part of a project in New Mexico encouraging the arts, specifically poetry. She submitted this poem to the group publishing poems for the public to read in New Mexico, and it was accepted. So how many of you are thinking of what kind of ice cream you'd like in bed? I choose peppermint. Actually I don't think I've ever eaten ice cream in bed. Stella told me her favorite ice cream is chocolate lavender gelato. I didn't even know such an ice cream existed. Of course, this poem is about more than ice cream, but you knew that. Stella has lived in Santa Fe for some time and writes in other genres in addition to poetry. In fact the first time I met Stella was at a writer's conference in, of all places, West Virginia.
In 2000, when I first decided to attend a writer's conference in West Virginia, I thought I must be a little nuts and a whole lot bored. West Virginia? Besides the John Denver song about the state being "almost heaven" I had no desire or need or want to ever go to that state. There were writer's conferences everywhere in the United States, many much closer to where I live in Arizona. I wasn't working at the time and thought maybe I was restless and willing to do anything to keep myself occupied. That was too simplistic of a reason. I felt compelled to go to West Virginia. I was embarrassed to even tell people. Really? West Virginia? What's there? I pictured coal mines and shanties and moonshine. I sent a story I had written to the writer's conference and was accepted. But that didn't seem a good enough reason to travel so far, alone. Still, I flew to Ohio and drove to West Virginia and yes the mountains, as John Denver said, are blue and ridged. Pretty in a less dramatic way than the west, but pretty just the same. There was a fine college campus and people who didn't work in coal mines or live in the back woods. Actually it was the most generous writer's conference I had ever attended, with a lot of food, and kind, smart people.
Stella and I were assigned to the same small group writing workshop. Before going to the conference, each member of each group was mailed copies of everyone's manuscript. Stella's was a chapter excerpt from her novel about a young girl named Cecilia. Later, she was able to get an agent for the manuscript. I liked her story the minute I read about Cecilia and her quest to find her father. Her writing stood out among the rest. The writer's conference was helpful, the people interesting and nice, and our instructor for a small group writing workshop which met each daily was not horrible and not great. I don't even remember her name, but that's okay. The best part of the small group writing workshop was meeting Stella.
Here is Stella when she visited me last January, and we went to Sedona. Since we met more than ten years ago, we have become dear friends. Thankfully, she doesn't live all the way in West Virginia. She once did live there, with her mother, but didn't much enjoy the people or the place and she left as soon as she could. Since we met more than ten years ago, we have emailed one another regularly and have visited one another several times. We have been friends through illnesses, marriages, moves, grandchildren (for her) and numerous jobs, and always the thread that binds us are the trials and tribulations and joys of writing. We've shared countless pages of our writing with one another, for revision, for suggestions, or sometimes just to read. I count on Stella to always give me honest, helpful and kind feedback. I trust her creative judgement.
I know now that I didn't go to West Virginia just to attend a writer's conference in a little college town in the blue ridge mountains. I went for something much greater, to find a dear friend and kindred spirit. I have another photo of Stella I was going to publish at the end of the blog, but she's sorta picky about photos of herself, and I don't blame her, so I think instead I will just say how through my writing career I've learned that just because someone is a writer doesn't mean he or she will be a true friend. I was lucky to find both in Stella though I had to travel all the way to West Virginia. So never think a compelling desire to do something is every stupid or crazy,no matter what you tell yourself or anyone else says. I like to believe there are reasons for everything. Neither of us has achieved great writing success, yet. In the meantime, I glad the people of Santa Fe get just a small taste of Stella's talent.