Mary Shea: A Writer’s Work

In 2011, I received a travel grant and attended the Green Mountain Writers Conference in Vermont. I’ve returned to the Conference every summer since 2011 and I was grateful to receive a second grant in 2015.

What is the Green Mountain Writers Conference? After years of attending formal workshops where accomplished writers were given more attention, Yvonne Daley, a journalist and published author wanted to create a space where writers of all levels would be welcomed and supported. She presented her idea to other Vermont writers and with their willingness to offer readings and workshops, the first Green Mountain Writers Conference took place in an old dance Pavilion on beautiful Chipman Lake in 1997. The idea proved to be a great success and the Conference will celebrate its 20th anniversary this summer.

Each morning and afternoon, workshops were offered in prose, both fiction and nonfiction, and poetry. Participants were free to choose the workshops they preferred. Each day started out with a writing prompt and after writing for twenty minutes, either sitting on the lake, or in the dance Pavilion we were invited to read our work.

Throughout the week we were given opportunities to read a work in progress for feedback. I had been working on vignettes of childhood memories I share with my best friend of close to sixty years. The tools and the constructive feedback I received from both emerging writers and accomplished authors have proved invaluable to me.

In the memoir writing workshop we talked about how food can spark a memory. Below are excerpts from two vignettes I wrote involving food:

That was Sue and me, just like Lucy and Ethel, always getting into trouble, laughing and crying together. We laughed when we found out it was ok to make ice cream sundaes with all the trimmings and cried when we found out it was not ok to play ping pong on her mother’s new coffee table.

My mother was eating a crumb bun when Sue and I ran home to tell her that Tommy Minogue, my brother’s friend was killed in Vietnam. A sound that I can’t describe came from her mouth as she dropped the bun and covered her face with her hands. When she took her hands away, her face was covered in white powder from the crumb bun but Sue and I didn’t laugh and could not imagine ourselves ever laughing again as we stood there listening to my mother’s sobs.

The old dance pavilion is no longer available and so for the past few years we have moved our work and words to the Mountain Top Inn in Chittenden Vermont.

I will return again this summer to gain fresh ideas, to see the beautiful mountains and to hug the friends who will also return.