On Nov. 20, 2015, the Minnesota Writing Project hosted a writing marathon at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting. It was a well-attended love fest for marathon fans from around the country. Many thanks to New Orleans Writing Marathon Retreat friend Michelle Shaw and her crew (pictured below) for facilitating this awesome event!
9:50 a.m. The Newsroom with Richard, Jane, Anne, Kirk, and Kate
To our surprise, the Bloody Marys arrive with beer chasers.
“It’s a Minnesota/ Wisconsin thing,” explains our server. Our drink orders have redeemed us in her eyes after asking her to clean off the one dirty table in the place, just the right size for our group.
The Newsroom is only two blocks from the Hilton, and it has a beautiful, enormous bar in the shape of a sailboat, complete with masthead, with bottles all through the rigging. The Bloody Marys take me back to the last day of the New Orleans Writing Marathon that summer, and to Andrew Wiseman’s rousing sing-along version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It had been an intense, emotional week, and this song pushed many of us over the edge into tears.
Who knew we’d find lagniappe—that little bit of something extra common in New Orleans—here in this frozen, Nordic city.
Life should come with a beer chaser.Something to chase after a good thing.
It will never catch up, of course, but it has to try.
11:00 a.m. Still at The Newsroom
Out the window, I can see the Hilton, and I count up and over to the window of my room. I can almost see the flowers sitting in the window still, trembling pink orchids above the frozen streets.
A surprise. A decadence. A presence here across the miles.
Lucinda Williams plays on the restaurant sound system, bringing up the tears again but making me remember that I need more Lucinda Williams in my life.
Out the window, a forklift scoops loads of steaming asphalt from a dump truck and carts it away to parts unknown. Clouds of grey smoke rise up past my orchids and fade into the grey Minnesota sky.
Late the following evening…
At the Dakota Jazz Club, the marathon continues with a different group of friends–Darin, Cathie, and Dan–after our NCTE presentation. We write after listening to the stunning gospel-infused blues of Kelley Hunt who makes us weepy with a song called “Beautiful Bones.” Eventually only Dan and I are left. MC Longshot is on the mic, and the club transforms slowly before our eyes into an entirely different venue. We sit in the estuary zone and write in the dim, churning nightlife vibe.
Minneapolis has been the scene of another police shooting of a young black man, and protests are ongoing. MC Longshot chants:
Ain’t no justice, ain’t no peace/When we’re dealing with police
Wake up/ Good morning!
We need everybody
Wake up/ Good morning!
We need everybody
The crowd grows. We write into the night. Eventually, our server asks that awesome marathon question, “Are you guys writers?”
Dan invites him to write with us. He declines, but says that some of the off- duty staff are writers. Dan pushes paper to him and urges him to invite them to write with us. Our eyes follow him to a table a few rows back. We exchange nods with the shadows, keep writing, keep listening.
A while later, the server brings us a piece of paper with three different styles of handwriting on it. It says,
Do not go gently into that good night. The shadows of November bring the clouds of December. The night holds promise… City of lakes in early freeze. Come back in the summer if it should please.
sinister noises/sincerely revealed/misled once again
Please be kind to yourself. Also, please be kind to others. If ever you are feeling alone, realize that people come, sometimes things change, and other times they do not. You alone have the ability to go to the last.
Our marathon hearts swell. We send back some writing of our own, greetings from the middle Midwest to the northern Midwest with encouragement to keep writing.
In my notebook at 12:55 a.m., I jot down MC Longshot’s challenge, “What are you going to do/to make a difference in this world?” I am overwhelmed again by marathon synchronicity. I write,
So. Cool. It’s everywhere…