I know. I have been unusually quiet since arriving home from the International Writers’ Conference in San Miguel. Forgive me. It is hard for me to believe that it has been one month to the day that I was on a plane headed back to the U.S. Where did those four weeks go?
The interesting thing about social media and building relationships in cyberspace is when you finally meet in person, something truly amazing happens. In ways, my cyber connections have been afforded the chance to know quite a bit about me even before our first face-to-face foray. This allows for all those shallower “Glad to meet you, this is what I have done in the past, etcetera, etcetera” niceties to be cast aside so we can get right to the deeper, more meaningful conversations about life.
Although I had met several of my writing friends in the “real” world at previous physical gatherings, the conference in San Miguel provided me with the opportunity to be introduced to some of my life-long idols and to add new contacts to my growing list of wonderful human beings I am happy to know.
There are so many claims about San Miguel de Allende being “magical.” Some swear it is because the city is built on some mysterious bed of crystals. Some blame the 6,000 foot elevation that limits the amount of oxygen to the brain. Some attribute the magic to the number of Huichol Shamans known as “mara’akame” that reside in the area. Whatever the reason, it is beyond any doubt an astounding city. My personal experiences while in San Miguel were full of “OMG! This is truly a magical place” moments. And it has taken me four weeks to digest those experiences…
The first bit of magic occurred the moment my shuttle dropped me off at the front door to my host’s beautiful home. As faculty members we were each offered the opportunity to be hosted by one of the many wonderful residents who are lucky enough to live in this mecca. When Barbara opened the door, I was immediately taken by her warm personality and the beauty of the courtyard that greeted me. I had my own room on the upper floor of her casita and felt so welcomed the entire time I spent there.
The faculty luncheon was held the day after I arrived and was hosted by the Mayor and city of San Miguel. There was glorious food, margaritas and fabulous company. I had the pleasure of eating lunch with Cheryl Strayed, author of the New York Times bestseller “Wild”; Amy Ferris, author of “Marrying George Clooney” and one of my co-editors on “Dancing at the Shame Prom”; Hollye Dexter the other glorious co-editor of “Dancing at the Shame Prom”; Sarah Stonich, author of “Shelter,” “These Granite Islands,” “The Ice Chorus,” and the recently released “Vacationland”; Samantha Dunn, co-contributor to “Dancing at the Shame Prom” and author of “Failing Paris,” “Faith in Carlos Gomez: A Memoir of Salsa, Sex, and Salvation,” and “Not by Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life;” and Jody Kobak Feagan, original co-founder of the San Miguel Writers’ Conference and all-around wonderful human being.
And did I mention Cheryl Strayed???! ;-). What a down to earth, fabulous and funny person! I, who adored her book along with countless millions, never in my “wild”est dreams thought I would end up breaking bread with this remarkable icon of memoir. Right off the bat I began to believe in the magic of this place.
And then there was Jody’s table… Jody Kobak Feagan’s table in her beautiful home, served as a meeting place for an endless stream of amazingly creative human beings. A throw back to the days of artist colonies and enclaves where conversations waxed poetic, philosophical, and occasionally surreal. And oh yes, there was always an abundance of margaritas. Perhaps that’s why some conversations felt so surreal…
The grounds of the Hotel Real de Minas where the conference was held provided a wonderful gathering area during the afternoons. Blankets and pillows were strewn around the shade covered lawn for reading and relaxing. Those same blankets seemed conductors of magical experiences like a picnic lunch with none other Suzanne Braun Levine, first Editor of Ms. Magazine. Now that is something I never imagined would happen in my own humble lifetime. But it did!
One of the most memorable moments happened when I joined six other amazing women on the stage for the “Women Write Their Lives” panel that was moderated by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter. The room filled up with 400 people who laughed and cried with us as we shared our lives and stories with the audience.
For those of you who know the story of my sordid childhood, this trip was akin to traveling full circle when I was introduced to a woman whose book literally saved my life back in my 20’s. Laura Davis, co-author of the iconic book “The Courage to Heal” was not only a presenter at the conference, but was also on the “Women Write Their Lives” panel. Laura’s book was the first I read that honestly propelled me into my own journey of healing from my ghastly past. I got to spend many amazing moments with this wonderful human being and feel blessed to be able to now call her my friend.
On Sunday I taught my “Dominating Social Media: How to market your writing to the masses” workshop that brought in a full house of eager and inquisitive writers which culminated in several private consultations.
Luckily I had a few hours during each day to wander, take photographs and get to know this wonderful city on a more intimate level. Those hours were by far the most magical. I would spend time outside the small cafes that surrounded the Jardin, where I would sip Cappuccinos, breathe the people into me, and watch the activities of the day unfold before me.
One afternoon while wandering the streets in search of my next photo op I ran into “The Three Amigos.” Jon Ware, John Drake and Ken Ferris twisted my arm and I joined them for a few cervezas and photography talk. Jon Ware is a fellow photographer from Minnesota who is married to the wonderful Sarah Stonich, while John Drake and Ken Ferris are cinematographers who both have quite an extensive list of Hollywood accomplishments (just peruse the links from their names). These three great, supportive men mesmerized me with their knowledge of photography and made me feel like one of the gang.
The morning I had to pack my suitcase and catch the shuttle back to the Leon airport was a sad day indeed. But there was to be yet one more moment of magic when I stepped into the van and found Amy and Ken Ferris being shuttled to the airport in the same vehicle! It was like the icing on the cake for me. A way to slowly and gracefully peel myself away from all the magic by spending several more hours in a peaceful transition back to reality with these two wonderful human beings.
I felt mesmerized with San Miguel. I was smitten in a deep way. Even now when I think back on my time in that beautiful city, I struggle to convey in words the impact this place and the people I shared it with have had on my soul. It’s a quiet, deeply internal, life-changing, eerily mysterious, effect. I get the feeling the true magic of that place will continue to be revealed until I find myself strolling along the cobblestone streets once again.
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