Wednesday, August 25, 2021

I Had A #BreadLoaf2021 Experience. Sort Of.

I stumbled upon a tweet last week that tipped me off that the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference was under way. It was on-line this year, as, I believe, a workshop series, for obvious reasons. I'd heard that for a few years now the Conference was offering lectures that were open to the public. And guess what? Those were on-line, too! In fact, for $25 a pop I could watch recordings of ones I'd missed. Which ended up being all of them, because we were getting toward the end of the second week of the Conference. 

Swimming at Falls of Lana between shifts

My History With Bread Loaf

My rabid followers are aware that I'm not a major fan of conferences, so why would I care about this one? Well, back in my college days, I spent three summers working in the Bread Loaf kitchen, during the English graduate school and the writers' conference. I was the Pastry Assistant, as I always put it, because even then I didn't allow anyone to call me girl, so I refused to use the official Pastry Girl title. It was a great time, particularly the first summer, what I imagine going to summer camp is like. If you actually like summer camp.

My time at Bread Loaf probably is what ruined me for writers' conferences, not because the Bread Loaf Conference is so superior to all others, but because, as I explain in My Bread Loaf, I now expect writers' conferences to be fun in a 'let's go hiking and swimming and crashing events' sort of way. And in my experience, they just aren't. Ya just have to accept that there's not going to be any of that. 

My #BreadLoaf2021

Empty class building

In an odd twist of fate, I learned that the Conference was happening just a few days before I was going to Middlebury, Vermont, which is sort of at the foot of the mountain Bread Loaf is on. I had no plans for going up to the Bread Loaf campus, but while we were in Middlebury last Saturday we had a few hours between a 4-mile walk downtown and a family dinner in the evening, and my husband was sure he'd be bored if he had to spend all that time in our hotel room. So we drove up to Ripton, the mountain town where Bread Loaf is located.

Empty inn
The campus was absolutely empty, though it was supposedly the last day of the Conference, because, remember, it was on-line. So that means that of all the people involved with this year's Conference, I may be the only person who was actually there on-site. For a three- or four-minute drive-thru.

Just What Was Your Bread Loaf Involvement, Gail?


Okay, you will recall that I mentioned in the first paragraph that the Conference offers lectures that are open to the public. That was foreshadowing, folks! Because on Monday, the day after I raced Hurricane Henri home, only to have him turn up his nose at Connecticut, I enjoyed one of those lectures out in my sun room surrounded by what may be described as leftover rain. 

I watched Dean Bakopoulus's Creatures of Impulse: What Fiction Writers Can Learn From TV, because, well, TV, right? It was a very decent presentation that functioned on two levels--one dealing with how fiction writers could use techniques from TV writing and the other dealing with his life during the pandemic. I thought I'd heard as much as I'd ever want to about what people were doing during the pandemic, but I was wrong. If I had been Dean last Thanksgiving, I would have roasted a turkey, too. 
Also, I now have a reading list, which makes me feel very intellectually stimulated.

Wait staff. Dean isn't there.

Bakopoulus was the perfect Bread Loaf speaker for me. First, well, TV, right? But, second, he had been at Bread Loaf years ago as a conference attendant who was working as a waiter. That means that sometimes he was in the kitchen! Like me! And this year was his first time back at Bread Loaf, and he was an instructor. And this year was my first time back at Bread Loaf, and I was a watcher of an instructor's lecture. So that was sort of the same, too.

Of course, Bakopoulus was at Bread Loaf well after I was. (Notice I say 'well' after and not 'long' after. There is a subtle difference. A little usage lesson for you.) And the waitstaff was considered a step up from the kitchen staff, though they had to pay to be there while we were paid to be there, and they were presumably working all the time while we most definitely were not. (Here's another opportunity to check out My Bread Loaf, if you didn't take advantage of the one I gave you earlier.)

After I started publishing, I sometimes thought about applying to the Bread Loaf Conference, just to see if I could get accepted. It would have been a way of feeling I had made it. I didn't really want to go. The thing lasts two weeks. I prefer my professional development along the lines of three hours.

Or, better yet, one hour, like the lecture I watched on Monday.

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