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BETWEEN THE LINES

Three reasons why I love World Fellowship

I got home last night from a week at World Fellowship Center, a progressive camp and conference center in New Hampshire dedicated to peace, social justice and nature. Summer camp for grown ups – that’s what I called it the first time I went there. It was 1982, I think, and Robby and our daughters drove up for a Red Diaper Baby conference. Over the decades since then, we keep returning, summer after summer. Here’s why:

1. The people. The folks who work there (Andy and Andrea and Howie and Ekere and the rest of the staff) and those who attend. World Fellowship is the kind of place where you can walk into the dining room alone and sit down at one of the long, family-style tables in the dining room, and within ten minutes you have figured out three or four connections with other guests – people you know in common, neighborhoods you’ve lived in, political groups you’ve worked with, passions you share for books or music or art or activism. A great pleasure, if you return, is rekindling those friendships. I was delighted this week to have a change to hang out with Jessica and Ethan and Holly and Alice and Alex, and to make a wonderful new friend, Aurora.

2. The setting. Over 450 acres in the southeast corner of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, in the metaphorical shadow of Mount Chocorua. There’s amazing hiking and biking. There are loons on Whitton Pond, along with swimming, canoeing, rowing, kayaking, blueberry picking. Every day, Howie (CEO of the recreation department. Actually, the whole recreation department) offers organized outdoor activities or suggestions for the exact level and length of view of the trip you want. Or, there’s my personal favorite way to enjoy the setting – settling in an easy chair on the huge wraparound screened porch to read, talk, work on a communal puzzle, nap, or gaze at Chocorua. Priceless.

3. The programs. Choose from a wide and rich variety of arts offerings and body movement groups, plus intensive programs and evening events and concerts and performances. This year I taught a weeklong fiction workshop (part of the Mount Chocorua Writers Retreat), and Robby and I led an evening program/discussion titled Writing our Hot Planet. The 2014 summer includes programs ranging from early music to mass incarceration, from Feldenkrais to global capitalism in Bangladesh, from Zombies to Clamshell Alliance and Zoning out Fracking to a ukelele festival and Why Fungi Matter and Theatre of the Oppressed. Whew and Wow!

At World Fellowship, I feel so connected to the natural world and to a community of people who care. I think of it as part of the Commons – the precious public places and heritages that communities share for the benefit of all, where we nourish, renew and teach each other, where we inspire each other and ourselves to go out and change the world.

I’m just home, still doing laundry and scratching mosquito bites, but I’m already thinking about next summer… Read More 
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Still wondering about Goodreads

I’m appalled at how long it’s been since I’ve written a blog. Oh, I’ve got lots of excuses: June was totally taken up with the Rosenberg Fund for Children event at Town Hall and then a week in Brooklyn hanging out with my beloved Josie.

July has been busy too –I’m now almost through a trip to New Hampshire and Maine. Two days at World Fellowship Center, in the shadow of the glorious Mt. Chocorua and as a guest at the Stonecoast MFA residency in Brunswick. These activities have given me a chance to talk with lots of writers about a topic so close to my heart – writing and social justice. And reminded me how much I enjoy doing readings, leading discussions and workshops, and listening to other writers’ thoughts on these subjects.

But the subject I want to tackle in this blog is a different one. Since Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads was announced in early April, I’ve been trying to figure out how to respond. On the one hand, I was (and still am) upset that the Amazon empire has overthrown another small literary country, one I particularly like to visit. On the other hand, if I left Goodreads, I would miss tracking my books – those I’ve read and want to read. (I can usually remember what I’m reading at the moment.) I would miss reading reviews written by my literate and book-loving friends. I would miss raving about a just-finished book I loved. I didn’t like knowing that Amazon could use my Goodreads ratings and reviews however they choose.

Actually, I don’t miss rating books. I find it very difficult to put a number on a work of literature. Partly because I know and admire so many writers and I know how much time and energy and heart and muscle most writers put into our work. I’m still chewing on this, but in the meantime, I’ve read all these books and had no way to share my thoughts with the online world. So, below are the books I’ve read in the past three months that I really enjoyed reading, that I’ve liked a lot, or loved.

And, I have two questions for my passionate reader/writer friends: Have you read any of these? What did you think? And, are you still rating/reviewing books on Goodreads? Any thoughts about this?

At Night We Walk in Circles, Daniel Alarcón
The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri
Quiet Dell, Jayne Anne Phillips
In the Body of the World, Eve Ensler
A Marker to Measure Drift, Alexander Maksik
The Realm of Last Chances, Steve Yarbrough
Claire of the Sea Light, Edwidge Danticat
You Are One of Them, Elliot Holt
Archangel, Andrea Barrett
The Son, Philipp Meyer
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Snow Hunters, Paul Yoon
The Illusion of Separateness, Simon Van Booy

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Writing for change, and Matthew Shepard

I recently led a workshop called Fiction for Social Change, as part of the Writing the Counter Narrative program at World Fellowship Center. If you’re not familiar with World Fellowship, check it out. It’s an amazing community in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, sort of a progressive summer camp for adults and families. Their motto is “where social justice meets nature,” and that’s a pretty good description.

World Fellowship was a perfect venue for this workshop. Although I’ve taught it before (at the San Miguel Writers Conference in Mexico last year and as a panelist at the 2012 AWP Conference), I continue tinkering with the content – refining the exercises and looking for new examples of exemplary politically-themed work.  Read More 
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All those who wander

This morning I drove from the White Mountains to mid-coast Maine. Not a difficult drive, unless you happen to be geographically challenged. I’m the kind of person who, when someone asks which way to go and I offer an opinion, anyone who knows me goes in the opposite direction. For this trip, my daughter Jenn generously lent me her GPS, plus I have maps, and a mapquest app on my phone. Using all these tools and suggestions from Robby (who was born with a GPS hard-wired in his brain), I chose my favorite kind of route, mostly two lane roads meandering through small towns and countryside. Still, I was worried about getting lost.  Read More 
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