So, I’m sitting here at my first ‘Shut Up & Write’. There’s warm wood, bulb lights, industrial chrome, whitewashed walls and brick. Wildflowers and clever literary knick-knacks. Hipster music playing to the sound of twenty-four fingers typing. It smells like herbal tea, and you can hear a group of people chatting indiscriminately upstairs. It’s a coffee shop, but it feels like home.
Surrounded on all sides by writers.
Writers. That’s me now too, apparently. How did I not know that people did this? Everyone, gathering together at one long table in a quaint little literary coffee shop, meekly sharing names and projects, disappearing behind computer screens, only to reappear an hour later to socialize.
What a concept. Socializing over writing.
writing. a team sport.
I suppose I always considered writing a private endeavor. It isn’t like football, after all. You don’t find writer friends and get together Friday nights like athletes to battle and fight and share blood, sweat and tears over something you love. But, perhaps we are our own sort of athlete. We engage in mental exercise. A silent team sport. Sitting, elbow to elbow. Thinking. Loudness in our minds. Explosions, perhaps. Death. Laughter. Parties. Who knows. On the outside, all I hear is hipster music. Tapping keys, and the scratching of pens (I brought a book to edit, a pad to scratch upon, and a laptop to type with – wanting to examine writers in their natural habitat and pretend I knew exactly what I was doing, just like them).
The barrista is popping popcorn somewhere. I can smell it. Perhaps writing together is something like watching a movie together. Twelve different movie screens, some on laptop screens, some on notebook paper.
The lady across from me brought a red bound, unlined sketchbook and is filling the pages with a lovely, flowing handwritten script. The guy next to me is checking his smart phone under the table, as if avoiding some middle school teacher’s sharp eye. Is he researching something? Google. How does one kill a baboon with a spoon? Read. Type. What is the chemical makeup of dragon saliva. Read. Type.
The guy next to Bonnie isn’t one I’d peg as a writer. He, actually, does look like a football player. Big guy. Close-cropped head. Working on a fantasy graphic novel set in Colorado.
“You an illustrator?” I ask.
“Naw,” he says, “But you can hire guys on Reddit for $80/page.” Maybe he’ll follow Dickens and put out a page or two per month. Wait till fans pay up in order to find out what happens next.
“Well, best not hold readers hostage off a cliffhanger,” the host says. We all laugh.
Another gal just walked in. Short, curly bob. Middle aged. Long boho dress, but looks like the mother of a few kids in university. I offer to move over, but she smiles and waves me off. Best not disturb the writers. This silence is sacred. This team sport has rules too.
The place is called the Wolverine Press. One poster, held up by clothespins, tells me %100 of the profits here go to literature, arts, and community in Fort Collins. I wouldn’t mind holding off writing and just wandering this place for a while. Some of my team mates keep looking at me. Maybe staring around, letting my fingers pause on the keyboard is against the rules…
home. a definition.
One corner of this place holds posters of Colorado 14ers. An old typewriter. Die-cut framed artwork of jellyfish. Expensive candles. ‘Beldamia’ they’re called. The black metal supports have “Wake Up And Fight” chalked across them. Dollar bills stuck up with sticky tack. One wall covered with a scuffed red bookshelf and a random assortment of books that leads all the way to the outside patio. What do they do with the books when it rains, I wonder? There’s a hand-painted portrait of what looks like a young Lincoln on a cheap canvas. Ah. Sign reads “Local Makers”. We’re proud of locals in Colorado.
I’m leaving you soon.
Three years. Three months. Who knew we’d be here that long? Never really expected to be 25, married with 2 kids, and sitting with a long-haired, french-speaking editor friend in a boho Colorado café, writing and talking about local publishers. Huh.
‘A Poetic Inventory of Rocky Mountain National Park” says the book propped next to my table’s wildflower jar. It’s a little book, published by Wolverine Farm Press itself. Full of funny little stories and poems about the majestic, busy state park. They’re a proud bunch, these Coloradoans. They love their state. Their land. Their people and culture and ways. Some may bemoan the Californian influence, but still.
Wherever you go, you’ll find people who think every downtown coffee shop there and each local summer sunset romantic and idyllic. Because it’s home.
My family moved around a lot growing up, so I didn’t know where home was for a long time. But I wanted it, that feeling of home.
Maybe we all long for home, like a dog pining for a kind master. We want to belong to a place. We yearn to be something more than just tourist who stops to smell the flowers and remark on their beauty. No. Instead, we want to sink our fingers deep into the earth of a place and plant seeds of our own. And not just soft, delicate little flower seeds. Seeds that will one day be great trees, but not for many, many years. A tree for the grandchildren of our friends. Something big and ancient and permanent.
That’s home. To have the dirt of a place buried deep beneath our skin. An earthy smell we never grow tired of.
A lot of things in life aren’t permanent. And, maybe you can belong to many different homes. Perhaps the connection to a place and people can follow you, even when you go far away…
So long, Colorado. It’s been fun (: