With the excitement of everyone being together again worn off, we settled down for another work session. I banged out two chapters, including the police interrogation that I’d been dreading. Matt and Willingham talked about Jack of Fables stuff and worked on their own projects. Chris did some proofreading and spot-checking. Williams dove back into an in-progress screenplay. An industrious day.
After lunch, everyone hiked down to the old barn, wherein lay a kind of self-guided tour of some of the house artifacts, along with large placards that either explained their significance or gave some of the history of Kipling and Brat. The placards gave no less than four different possible reasons why Kipling only stayed four years and never returned after he departed. We left the barn with more questions than answers. On the way back, I tried a different trail to get to the main house and stumbled across what looked like a small shrine, except that the shrine was crowned with an old, worn, plastic sculpture of Top Cat. Maybe there's a Joseph Barbara fan out somewhere. I don't know. But I took a picture of it, since it was easily the second-oddest thing I'd seen on this trip, after Crabhands.
It was Chris’ turn to cook, and I volunteered to be his wingman for the outing. We set up something that he could bang into the oven and walk away from: roast beef and veggies. Simple, but efficient. There wasn’t much of our food this week that we didn’t convert to sandwich form by the end of each meal. Men. Go figure.
At dusk, we trudged out through the pergola to the spooky altar-looking site and we toasted the reunion, and inducted Bill Williams into our little cabal. We are now officially a pentacle (old CWSB reference), so I’ll leave it to you folks to decide who gets to be Rosemary.
The evening concluded with a large reading session. Everyone got some valid critiques in, as well as a nice concentrated dose of shop-talk. Williams remarked, “It’s been pretty fun. Kinda like visiting someone else’s family reunion.”
So, what came out of this whole thing?
Well, getting back into contact with everyone was paramount. We did have a good time when we were together, and by setting up our rules about writing and critiquing well in advance and also separately from our friendships, it has created a kind of killing floor that we can throw anything onto and see if it survives. Having that kind of honesty available to your creative work is essential as a writer. Being able to get that kind of honesty from real friends is exceedingly rare.
The singular experience of spending a week in the hull of Kipling’s personal ship was one of the coolest for me, ever—it ranks right up there with eating lunch in the Robert E. Howard house, at the dining room table, on his birthday. Uniquely special in its significance.
On a more slight and personal note, I needed the break from the theater. Or rather, I needed the space to re-establish my writing routine. I missed Cathy and the like, but getting to be nothing but writerly for a week was nothing short of divine.
Also, it was my first trip to Vermont. Check one more state off of my official score card.
Tomorrow, I start back home.