Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2012 Georgia Literary Festival on Jekyll Island

It was a wonderful weekend in this gorgeous piece of paradise!

 It's a very long ways from Columbus to the coast. Fortunately, my good friend Karen Johnson went down with me and kept me awake on the long drive. We arrived on Thursday night and crashed at a hotel in Brunswick. On Friday, Dr. Jennifer Gray, who coordinates the writing center at the College of Coastal Georgia, along with three of her writing coaches picked me up to take me to my school visits for the day.

 Because I prefer to do actual writing workshops, a single classroom situation is the best scenario. My first visit of the day was with fourth graders at Satilla Marsh Elementary where we worked to create a plan for a personal narrative. I was thrilled with the teacher's report that although she had special ed students and autistic students in the classroom, every child successfully completed their plan.

Dr. Jennifer Gray, Hannah, me, Beth, and Ashley.
My second school visit was with second graders at Altama Elementary. Both sessions were combined classes. Forty students in the first session and fifty in the second. I was grateful and proud of my entourage of writing coaches who pitched in and helped the students. You go, girls! That's what writing coaches do! And thanks for the lovely lunch on St. Simon's Island.

Jennifer delivered me to the hotel on the island. What a wonderful place with such fascinating history. The first transcontinental telephone call was initiated here with Dr. Bell in New York and Mr. Watson in San Francisco.

The festival was held at the new conference center on Jekyll, a lovely setting with views of the Atlantic from nearly every window.

It seems to happen to me often when I would really love to have a photo. I couldn't get the camera button to work. Though it worked fine the rest of the weekend. So I'm grateful to have found a video by Buffy Hamilton from the Unquiet Librarian of Natasha Trethaway's reading of "The Elegy," the first poem in her collection, Thrall. Ms. Trethaway read numerous poems from the collection. I was moved to tears. Literally. I had to sit for a moment before I could leave the presentation. Perhaps because I'm dealing with my own father's final days, the tenderness and the struggles inherent in this collection (one that she called a public conversation with her father) hit a sweet spot in my heart.

Saturday was a wonderful time of hanging out with good friends, Gail Karwoski and Lola Schafer. And meeting new ones. The children's sessions were fairly small, but well attended. I always take my hat box with me to talk about the writing process, all the hats a writer wears. It's not literal, but I really do like literal hats, so what can I say?

Saturday night, we enjoyed a wine dinner with Chef Hugh Acheson, who owns the Five & Ten in Athens and the Empire State South in Atlanta. I have no idea how they decide who will sit with whom, but table nine was the place to be. Karen and I were joined by BA and Gabe, owners of a sustainable farm in Brunswick who provided vegetables for the night's meal, a couple from Florida (so sorry I've lost the card with their names) who also run a sustainable farm, and a book reviewer from Atlanta. The laughter flowed more volubly than the wine, I think. It was a wonderful close to a very full day.
The raucous crew of table nine.
Before we left on Sunday, Karen and I bicycled around the island. We started on the landward side, pedaling along the marshes of Glynn, then turned onto Driftwood Beach, an eerily beautiful scene. The tide was out and the sand was hard, so we biked the rest of the way around on the beach. So beautiful!

On the way out of town, we stopped at Sapelo Farms and BA gave us a tour, let us sample different varieties of greens, and introduced us to the baby lambs.

What satisfying weekend!


  1. Love it! The first trip Paul and I ever took together was to Jekyll Island. We keep saying we're going to go back, but you're right, it's a long way! Looks like it was worth it, though. Love the hat box!! And biking pix. Well, all of it, actually. xo

  2. You'll have to see the hat box in person one day! And yes, you really need to go back. I think I'd recommend the fall season. The weather was wonderful. Karen rode horses on the beach. The biking was marvelous. Next time, ocean kayaking.