Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I came out onto the sunny Mark Twain Museum Center patio mid-day Saturday, April 21, when the First Annual Mark Twain House Writers’ Weekend was breaking for lunch, and saw a sight like something out of the Bible. A short, dark-haired, impassioned woman was standing at the head of a table, reading aloud, while eighteen or twenty crowded around her, rapt, like the crowd around a prophet on some dusty mountain. This was Bessy Reyna, a rare and eloquent poet from Bolton, who had let it be known that her seven morning poetry participants hadn’t wanted to stop at an hour – they wanted to work though lunch. As they did, others joined them; the blue polo shirts of our hardworking UConn interns could be seen in the growing multitude. “I didn’t even like poetry,” said Audrey Eckert of Thomaston, who came upon the group and stayed. “But I heard the most wonderful poet.”

I could see then that the miracle of the Writers’ Weekend had come off. There were loftier celebrities, from the eloquent editor Lewis Lapham and the powerful novelist Jon Clinch to the brilliant playwrights Alfred Uhry, A.R. Gurney, and Donald Margulies. All of them had generously given of their time to make this a success. So had fourteen other writers in sessions small and large on a range of subjects. There were dozens of moments of discovery like Audrey’s, all compressed in an evening and a good long day. When it was all over, the evaluations of the Weekend came in – 22 excellent, 19 good, plenty of praise. “Every moment was terrific!” wrote a woman who went on to lecture us gently on our food choices.  “Addressed issues and areas I needed resolved as a writer,” wrote another attendee. And more: “Well organized, balanced; great presenters and accessible.” “Respectful of the novice.” Some commented on the non-academic atmosphere as being a boon. There were suggestions: a two-day weekend with longer sessions and more breaks; children’s literature; a humor-writing session – and tea! tea! tea! in the morning, not just coffee.
We think we can find the tea for next year. Let me add my thanks to Julia’s more timely ones earlier this week to everybody who took part in this, in preparation and aftermath, as well as those who, on the days of,  gave so much to this effort. The Mark Twain Memorial said in 1955 it would do something like this. Things in Connecticut take a little while. Now it’s getting done. Thanks to you.
-- Steve Courtney  

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