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more musing on AROHO

February 22, 2015

If AROHO had just said No… I’d have been devastated in at least one way.

{Although since I’m working on my self-esteem, I wouldn’t have felt utterly obliterated, as I might have a few months ago. Yay, progress.}

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If AROHO had just said Yes…

It really seems like that’s what I should have been wanting, but I felt conflicted about an unqualified Yes. Do they have a quota for new writers, and that’s how I made it in the first time? Did I make it back on ‘merit’, or was it because I’d been there before? Did anyone look forward to seeing me again? Did anyone think I, as an individual, would add something singularly appealing to the retreat? If they did think that, what, specifically, did they / could they have in mind??

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AROHO wait-listing me, though… that’s … (oddly enough) ideal.

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A month before submitting my application, I ‘came out’ to them, and asked them to clarify their community as being ‘not-men’ (rather than ‘women’, which is unclear whether nonbinary and trans* women are welcome). They didn’t respond.

H/t to Rose L: before her Twitter hashtag, #dontselfreject, was a thing, I submitted joyfully, playfully, and passionately to a venue I . . . couldn’t be sure had any interest in hearing from me.

Their theme this year required applicants to explain how they were An Outsider(!): nailed it!

I feel so good about everything I submitted: I showcased my best self, and my best writing self.

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Some women received Yeses, so their submissions clearly bowled over the AROHO selection committee.

It felt like Destiny (Which I Don’t Believe In) when I got accepted for the 2013 retreat. I didn’t assume I’d “bowled anybody over”, although I felt I had a solid “new writer, prose” submission.

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In 2013, I attended. I had a marvelous time; it changed my life.

That was the first time in my life I ever felt … almost… like I belonged to a community. Almost… like I was welcome, or at least accepted (conditionally).

I … almost … made Real Friends.

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There are a great many unconditional things I can enthuse about my AROHO Retreat experience. But almost none of them have anything to do with “a community of women”. Or even, “a community of writers (almost all of whom are cis women)”.

New Mexico. Ghost Ranch. Colors. Light. Cottonwood trees. Other trees. Mountains. Lizards. Bumblebees. Flowers, unfamiliar and familiar. The labyrinth. Spirits of place. The Rio Chama.

Wandering around at night, writing poetry while talking to the stars.

Getting enough (nutritious and tasty) food, 3x a day, every single day (!).

Opportunities to talk to other people who are also thoughtful and interesting and engaged with the world.

Thinking about intriguing things, amongst other people doing it too.

Talking about books.

Reading books.

Telling people how moved I’d been by things they said/did.

None of the above requires “women of AROHO” as participants.

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I definitely would have liked to hear whatever Diane Gilliam said about her last 2 years.

I was looking forward to talking to Ruth Thompson and Emily Wallis Hughes again. And Gillian Barlow, if she made it back.

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Being wait-listed means… I get to choose what I want to do. I submitted the best stuff I had in me. If a space were to open up that I’m eligible for, do I want to take it?

No.

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But I will return to Ghost Ranch someday.

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