The Post Writer’s Camp Blah Blah Blahs: How to Deal


Home, 2015?
Wally Conference home, 2015?

Of course I was happy to be home. Of course I missed my family and was immensely glad to see them. Of course I didn’t miss that ugly, tiny, springy, single dorm mattress and that sweltering dorm room. Of course it was good to sleep in my own bed on the second night home, having slept the first night home in my son’s bed with my son because he missed me and it was sweet and the right thing to do. Generally speaking, again, I was and am happy to be back home. And yet, a week later, a post-writer’s-camp-funk has descended and lingers on me like a gigantic black cloud. I’m a teacher on Summer break; it’s not like I had to jump right back into the work fray. I’ve got leisure, and I don’t have to work until August, but at home there are a thousand and one distractions and responsibilities keeping me (I imagine) from writing and reading and separating me from the rest of my camper friends, save for those I can find in the digital realm, a blessing, if Facebook could ever be said to be a blessing.

Writer’s Camp, for me, every time I’ve had the opportunity to attend, is like pure bliss, an extended, uninterrupted bliss.  Besides being occasionally tired as a result of not quite enough sleep on uncomfortable beds, or being too warm in Mass or cold in Cali by the bay, I am, at Writer’s Camp, continuously on fire with happiness, contentedness, gratitude, and full of creativity at a pitch unlike anything I experience at home over the course of the year–with very few exceptions.  Psychologically, I think I understand this.  Like a love affair, a vacation to some exotic locale, or a kind of high brow Trekkie convention, the sheer novelty of being in a place where everyone is interested in the same thing and equally supportive of one another, where most of our day-to-day distractions, worries, and dramas are for the most part absent, and where we feel like we are continuously representing our best selves while simultaneously experiencing others at their best, brings about a kind of heady euphoria that pales in comparison to the “real life” we live back home. So the challenge–and I do not believe it is a challenge that is beyond me–the challenge is to somehow bottle the goodness of camp, allow it to sustain me rather than depress me in its absence.  I’m up for this challenge, but it’s not an easy thing.  Here are some strategies:

I read the published works of my friends from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers; such a wealth of talent, generosity and literary richness and diversity I have found nowhere else in contemporary letters.

I negotiate with the family some writing time or mini-retreats; all I have to do is ask and plan ahead and my wife of 28 years and my son understand how important this stuff is to my health and happiness and wellbeing and I am eternally grateful for their support.

Finally, I look forward to next year’s camp in a big way: I have taken on the responsibility to host the next conference in my home town at my undergraduate and teaching program alma mater.  I pray to The Big Cheese that nothing goes haywire there.   I am confident and excited about its potential success. And what a gift that will be: my Writer’s Camp Buddies from the MFA Writing Program at Warren Wilson College will all be in my proverbial living room, at my table, in my backyard–and the idea of that (not to mention that I won’t have to get on a plane) will mightily sustain me until next summer!

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

15 thoughts on “The Post Writer’s Camp Blah Blah Blahs: How to Deal

  1. You hit the nail on the head! I did plunge right back into teaching, and that helped cut the Wallyache, going from one immersion into the next without more than a day’s pause.

  2. Marcia, you rock. Yes, somehow I think it would be a comfort to be busy. Hey, you doing that ESL thing now that you were telling me about, that 4 hour a day thing? How’s it going?! I hope well.

  3. I really loved this. I just got back from my final (sniff) WWC residency. I’m thrilled to have graduated but there is the re entry to face. I quite excited about the idea of an alumni conference next year in my neck of the woods. I’m also excited to find the alumni facebook page, and your blog. come see mine:

  4. Hey Michael,

    Will the Wally Conference definitely be in Portland next year? Do you know the dates? I have every intention of attending.



  5. Michael,

    The conference will most definitely be in Portland next year? If so, that’s just lovely. I have every intention of attending. Do you know the dates yet?

    Looking forward to it,


    1. Hey Nick! Yes, barring some unforeseeable disaster, the conference will be held in Portland next year, July 27 to August 2, at Lewis and Clark College! Are you a Portlander, or a Northwesterner? When did you graduate from Warren Wilson? Fiction or poetry? Thanks for visiting and I look forward to meeting you!


      1. Michael,

        I live in New Orleans, graduated in 2009, and I’m a fiction guy.

        Looking forward to the shindig. Been a minute since I was in Portland. See you there.


      2. Awesome. Look forward to seeing you. Are you a member of the list serve or the Facebook alumni page? All info regarding conference developments will be posted there, I suspect. Cheers.

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