Doesn't seem like it's possible, but just a little over a week ago, author Maurice Broaddus visited with my Creative Writing students at Seton for our third annual Creative Writing Workshop. One day he spent working with the participants themselves, critiquing their work, the next day he addressed a general assembly of students, discussing his career and what has brought him here.
The program was a success on all fronts. The kids loved Maurice, who seemed to enjoy himself; we got great media coverage, and most importantly, we raised the funds ourselves.
Probably the best part of the visit, of course, was just hanging out with Maurice, whom I haven't seen face to face in several years, though I've conversed regularly with him through email. I had a marvelous time hanging out with him, and we talked about a LOT of things, things I had questions about, and his answers - about life, writing, the business, faith - really helped clarify things for me in many areas.
One of the best elements of this visit was an added personal touch. Right before the workshop, a student's mother asked if Maurice needed a place to stay, because they happened to have a completely separate third-floor apartment they'd used many times in the past to host visiting musicians for the Binghamton Philharmonic.
At the time I was just happy to save Maurice money on lodging, but the personal impact of him staying with a student's family was of incalculable value, especially because the student in question has been thinking quite a bit lately about a writing career. Maurice's first night in Binghamton, we both had dinner at this student's family cottage on Quaker Lake, and the conversation (and food) was nearly breathtaking. Another night, Maurice and his host family stayed up until 11 PM just talking. You just can't buy that kind of experience anywhere.
The capper, however, was Memorial Day. Because of some schedule changes (a student had a conflicting college visit) we flew Maurice out here on May 28th. May 29th was Memorial Day and no school, so I'd already planned on having Maurice over for dinner. To my immense delight, he told me that he'd been talking to another wonderful author, Mary Sangiovanni (who lives near), and they were planning on hanging out. I invited both of them for dinner...
And what a night. Mary brought her son, and after dinner we managed to blow 6 or 7 hours at my house without even noticing. The talk went everywhere - from writing to life to parenting and teaching, and Maurice kept us in stitches and tears half the time. We all had a wonderful evening, and in many ways it was such a beautiful night for me, because I was able to - for a short period of time - blend my family life with my writing life, which, as any writer will tell you, is very hard. But for six hours, dear writing friends (one kind of family) and my family-family were in the same place, and it was wonderful.
And, I'm sure at times Abby got lost in a little of the writing and publishing talk, but luckily, the kids behaved really well, and she got herself a belly-full of laughs, courtesy of Maurice. I think Abby is even more eager to meet Maurice's wife Sally now, so a return trip to MoCon is very likely imminent, with the whole family in tow, this time. Because unleashing Madi and Maurice's boys upon the whole church just seems like the thing to do....
In any case, the whole experience really brought it home to me, once more, the real reason why we writers like to congregate together at Conventions. Sure, there are networking opportunities and the chance to make contacts, maybe even meet new readers, but really... we just want to be with our family. Memorial Day was so awesome this year, because I was lucky enough to have members of my writing family and my family in the same place, at the same time.
And that's an experience NO amount of money can buy.
Enjoy the clip of Maurice Broaddus on our local news, below.