Today, many of us attending the San Miguel Writers’ Conference are away from the one we love, including “Yours truly.” So, before anything else is said, a huge hug and kiss go out to Jorge, my Valentine, back in Merida. They say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” . . . yes, we’ll have fine celebration once I’m home . . .
One of San Miguel’s symbols is the heart and throughout the year you’ll find them all over town. They are made of tin, blown glass, ceramic, clay, paper, pewter, wood and fabrics of all kinds. But yesterday when I took a walk to the market and through Benito Juarez Park, there were even more. And flowers too. Valentine’s Day is a VERY BIG deal here.
But I digress. I am here for the Conference, right?
Registration began at noon. I was not surprised to see many of the same attendees as in previous years. This is such an enriching event, it draws us back again and again.
Michael Schuessler, one of the speakers I met last year arrived in the afternoon with his mother, Gail. He will be presenting again at this year’s conference and she is taking part in some of the sessions. A former librarian from Arizona, Gail said she felt happy to be in Mexico, among so many kindred spirits.
She and I sat together at the Conference’s first keynote address by Cheryl Strayed, author
of the acclaimed memoir Wild. Ms. Strayed spoke passionately about her journey of discovery over a 100 day period in 1995 when she trekked through the Pacific Northwest, alone and inexperienced with the wild. She drew parallels between her experience and writing, in that the process is often similar. Writers know where they are starting from and where they want to end up, but getting there is arduous. Many times they lack the knowledge of how they should best proceed and their skills are lacking, but the drive to just do it, to write the best book they possibly can, pushes them forward. Even when everyone around them has lost faith.
What I enjoyed most about Cheryl Strayed’s presentation was her humility and her honesty. Wild was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as the book to launch Book Club 2.0, and the film rights have been optioned by Reese Witherspoon. But Cheryl is not at all “too cool” about her success. She unabashedly shared her delight, amazement and gratitude with us. I liked that enormously.
Today promises to be a full day from start time at 8:00 am until we finish up at 7:30 pm. But in Mexico, Valentine’s Day is not just for sweethearts. It is called, “the day of love and friendship.” And although my love is far away, I am in the company of many treasured friends, and I am immersed in the writers’ world . . .