Arrived in Provincetown this afternoon and checked in at the Norman Mail House at 4:00 to get my condo assignment and meet Jessica Zlotnicki, the liaison for the Norman Mailer Writers Colony workshops. Unfortunately for me, because I have a car, I’ve been slotted into a big condo on the other side of rt 6, at least a couple miles out of downtown. What’s worse, I have a condo-mate, a guy named Paul from NJ. Not what I’d bargained for. I’d been imagining a quaint little writer’s studio apartment where I’d cook delicious meals for myself, spread my stuff all over, keep odd hours, make mail art, and, most importantly, write. Instead, I’m in a summer condo rental, big yes but just more space to be shared. Being hyper-considerate, now I’m hesitant about making dishes, being too much in the kitchen, am self-conscious about drinking a beer (or more), about leaving my stuff around, etc.
BUT … the workshop. That’s the point of my being here at all. Tonight the nine attendees gathered at the Mailer House and met with Colum McCann. There are some very interesting people among us, accomplished ones as well, people who’ve published books, who work in publishing, who have literary resumes. I’m in the deep water now and need to remind myself that I can swim pretty well myself and not to worry. Among us is a UN international aid worker; a Black guy from Philadelphia who reminds me for all the world of Walter Mosely; a psychologist from Northampton; a gay Indian guy who works for HarperCollins. We all went around the table and talked a little about ourselves. At Colum’s behest, we all noted who/what we like to read. When my turn came, I said I recently enjoyed reading Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives, that I’m reading the Ginbserg/Kerouac letters (just released), and that I was considering having a go at Infinite Jest (a comment that brought sighs and expressions of recognition, as if others had either read it or tried to).
Then there’s Colum. Instant good vibe from him. Strikes me as very intelligent but with a round, sort of quilt-like intelligence, soft, not like, say, a whip smart debater’s honed intellect. Colum has depth, intensity, is well-spoken, confident, obviously skilled at what he does, comfortable in the workshop setting (he teaches at a college in NY too). Really looking forward to listening to him this week. When he looks at you, he really looks right at you and talks right to you; no whiff of posture or pretense; sleeves rolled up, he has strong forearms.
Sunday night’s first session is about an hour, mostly we decided who gets workshopped when. I’m up on day two. The schedule is: 2 stories worked tomorrow, 4 on Tuesday (of which I’m one), and 3 on Wednesday.
Oh, and I’m not the only one who brought an excerpt from a novel, I think two others have as well.