Bread Loaf 2012: My Liver Hurts

Posted on 28 August 2012

This will be my last Bread Loaf post. Probably. I think.

I feel I should post detailed accounts of what happened, what I heard, what I learned, and so on and so forth, but I’m too exhausted. I still see yellow when I close my eyes. I’m still digesting all I learned. I’m still a little unnerved to not have a group of new writing friends right down the hall or across campus. And yes, I’m still detoxing from all those drinks in the barn. Plus, the real world is now front and center. If I thought my job kept me busy before I pranced off to a Vermont mountaintop for 10 days, that was nothing compared to now.

Maybe excerpts from an email I wrote to my friend Kelly near the end of the conference — an email I don’t remember writing — will paint the picture for you. It included such gems as “Alcohol and alcohol do not mix,” “This writing conference is killing my liver,” “I’m having stress dreams about packing after 10 days of writing-related awesomeness and book buying,” “I miss the cats,” “When you get your MBA you’ll be the opposite of us writers: rich and employed,” and, of course, “My liver hurts.”

But Bread Loaf is obviously more about the drinking, even if I didn’t exactly pass on any of those cocktail parties. A few highlights:

  • I workshopped a new short story and received incredibly smart and helpful feedback. My workshop leader was Lan Samantha Chang, who was fantastic, and our fellows, Jennine Capó Crucet and Ted Sanders, were just as brilliant. I made a very wise workshop choice. (And no one cried, not even once!)
  • Attended readings and lectures by too many amazing writers to list, but here’s an attempt: Jennifer Egan, Scott Russell Sanders, Natasha Trethewey, Ann Hood, Eavan Boland, Peter Ho Davies, Carl Phillips, Thomas Mallon, Jay Parini, and many, many more, plus readings by the fellows, waiters, and scholars.
  • Ramona Ausubel‘s craft class on creating new fictional worlds completely inspired me and, through a 10-minute writing exercise, gave me a surprise new novel idea.
  • Had private meetings with two book editors, a lit mag editor, and one agent. Mixed results, but positive overall.
  • Enjoyed the famous Bread Loaf hayride, as semi-accurately portrayed in The Simpsons episode where Moe and Lisa go to the “Word Loaf” writing festival in Vermont.
  • Made friends with Randy the bartender.
  • Played Sorry! and obliterated everyone. Then I gloated. (There’s nothing that raises my self-esteem like winning a game of complete chance.)
  • Traveled down the mountain into Middlebury one evening for civilization, dinner, and a game of darts. Miraculously, I injured no one.
  • Went on a moose hunt but did not locate a moose. This is perhaps my biggest regret of the entire conference. If and when I return to Bread Loaf, I’m going to buckle down and get serious about my moose hunts.
  • Read part of my Elizabeth Bishop story during the Blue Parlor reading series and discovered it’s a completely different experience when 100% of the people in the audience are familiar with Bishop’s work.
  • Strolled down the Robert Frost trail to gaze at the jewelweed and to read the poems posted along the way.
  • Walked barefoot down the meadow path and waded in the cold cold creek.
  • Danced in the awkward way only writers can at the barn dances.
  • Visited Robert Frost’s summer cabin and kept saying, “I could totally live here.”

I came home with a load of new books; a bright yellow Bread Loaf t-shirt; new ideas for stories, essays, and novels; renewed Frost love; mosquito bites and a bee sting; an awakened coffee addiction; inspiration; fabulous new writing friends; a plan for the future; and so many other things that are unexplainable and that I’ll keep all to myself.

So that’s it: Bread Loaf 2012. Now who’s applying next year?

17 responses to Bread Loaf 2012: My Liver Hurts

  • Teri says:

    Your liver hurts … because alcohol and alcohol do not mix!! Hahahaha Laura, and thank you for this realistic vision of the world of loaf. Love it!

    I applied this year, and would you believe I was high on the waitlist and did not get the call. They sent me an email in early June to let me know that people always have to drop out at the last minute, and to be ready if I was interested in going at the last minute. I was ready!! But alas, not to be. Darn!!! So I really really really appreciate all of these posts — thank you!

    Now I’m off to envision writers and dancing…..

    • Oh no! I don’t think anyone understands how that waiting list works. I had no idea I was that close to seeing you on the mountain. We would have had a blast together. The super competitive admissions process is part of why I can’t assume I’ll be there next year, as much as I’d love to.

      Are you going to Boston for AWP next year? I wasn’t planning on it but after Bread Loaf, I’m reconsidering.

  • Downith says:

    It’s a loaf too far for me but sounds wonderful.

  • Vanessa Blakeslee says:

    Great post! My liver is still in recovery. Green tea and vegetarian diet from here on out. Have yet to write my BL blog essay but will this week — I’m still processing.

    • Vanessa! Yes, our livers hate us. But despite that, I wish BL did not end so quickly. I can tell from the Facebook comments/pages that I’m not the only one in BL (and alcohol) withdrawal. Looking forward to reading your thoughts.

      Now that it’s all over, I wish I had stayed out later Friday night to hang out — but as you know, I wasn’t exactly in top condition. :)

  • Josephine says:

    awww…this is great. i’m glad you had such a time of it. that you have stuff to keep just for yourself. that you learned alcohol and alcohol don’t mix.

    maybe your next post will be a list of the books you got? yes?

    (that simpson’s episode is a favorite. i love when funny writers write about writers.)

    • Wait, let me get this straight. You want to hear about the literary side of Bread Loaf and not just my alcohol-fueled shenanigans or how I recovered from hangovers in the Adirondack chairs? Okay…to each his own.

      Some of the books I bought include BATTLEBORN by Claire Vaye Watkins (have been hearing amazing things about this new story collection); HOW TO LEAVE HIALEAH by Jennine Capó Crucet (stories); NO ANIMALS WE COULD NAME by Ted Sanders (stories), Lan Samantha Chang’s latest novel, ALL IS FORGOTTEN, NOTHING IS LOST; AN ORNITHOLOGIST’S GUIDE TO LIFE by Ann Hood (stories); a poetry collection by Carl Phillips; WHIP SMART by Melissa Febos (who doesn’t want to read the memoir of a dominatrix?); and a few more I’m not able to recall right now. I’ll try to post more thoughts after I read them.

  • Elissa Field says:

    Your post brings up so many memories — you have summed the experience so well. It is such an intense conference. I’m ready to go again, but when I went years back, the insights from workshops, readings, etc. continued to surface for me for years after. I’m glad you had such a great week!

  • Averil Dean says:

    Too classy a loaf for the likes of me, but I love your descriptions. The hayride, the walk along a meadow path and into a cold cold creek, the awkward dancing. (80’s music?) Also, workshops! Lectures! It sounds like an amazing experience. I’m so glad you had the chance to go.

    • Not so sure “classy” would describe my experience, which culminated on the final night around 2am when my body finally started rejecting all the alcohol I’d consumed. Good times.

  • Macdougalstreetbaby says:

    Sounds like an absolutely amazing experience. Ask me again in about 12 years, okay? That’s about when my parenting responsibilities end. If that’s not depressing, I don’t know what is.

  • Randy A, Stockwell says:

    hey Laura it was my plesure miss seening you and Grant

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