Madeline, Meme and the Summer Conference
This year my granddaughter Madeline and I will be experiencing the life-bending IWWG Summer Conference together. She is fifteen and I am not, but I sure wish someone had introduced me to this life-changing experience before I was 47. This is our story.
As Meme Tells It:
Though for the last 12 of her fifteen years Madeline has lived in the mountains of Colorado, we’ve shared some of our rare summer moments on Cape Cod writing fairy tales together, watching an Anne Lamott documentary, sitting beside each other as we pound out stories on our dueling laptops—me personal history or workshop scripts, she unlikely heroes in absurd situations. This year celebrating her birthday Easter week on the Cape, she asked and I agreed; I asked and she agreed to experience this Summer Conference, my 25th, together.
This feels so right. For one thing, the Guild I know and want Madeline to know is the ultimate come-as-you-are party. We come without frames other than our seeking identity as women writers. No judgment, just appreciation. We come without street addresses. No one knows if we live in Upper East Side apartments or yurts. We come in jeans and long peasant skirts, business casual and colorful scarves. Genres are tried on for size and kept or discarded. What could be better for a budding young woman writer than the chance to define herself in a group of accepting women who are still defining themselves and supporting each other in whatever shape that takes. It’s also a perfect year. The teens from LA have broken ground for a whole new generation of active participants. The new student rate is a surprise bargain. While our seasoned membership may be accused of “aging out,” I see us as “aging in.” We are rich in the generosity of spirit and experience found in the very best mentors. Madeline, at the summer conference, will be supported by many wise and loving hands.
There is another reason, perhaps more abstract but none-the-less true. I came to my first summer conference in 1994 groping to find my own authenticity. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, I came asking “Is it worth it to become Real?” The answer I’ve heard from my Guild sisters, summer after summer, campus after campus, in conversation after conversation, has been a rich and affirming “yes.”
This year I will be bringing Madeline so she can hear it for herself.
As Madeline Tells It:
My name is Madeline, and this year I am coming to the Guild Summer Conference with my grandmother, Judy Huge. Meme and I are separated by thousands of miles and over 50 years but are connected by our love of words. I grew up knowing that Meme was a writer and was always fascinated by that. I’m an artist and while I can create a picture for you, a writer can take you there with words. I’ll be honest; I’m a little envious of writers.
Because of this, I wanted to become a writer myself. So I got started. I enjoy writing stories of unexpected adventure and love unlikely heroes, like an elderly librarian tasked with stopping an apocalypse. I guess I was drawn to these heroes because if they could do something incredible, so could I, a fifteen-year-old girl.
I sat down to write this piece and, like many other writers, hit a wall. Failed drafts followed in quick succession. Sections were copied and pasted; pages deleted. After a long walk (boring), some coffee (not quite dull, but still…), and some lunch (delicious), I found my way. I realized I was trying too hard. My words weren’t coming from me but from a version of me as I wanted to be seen.
Because I am mainly a fiction writer, I am so deeply involved with my characters I sometimes have a hard time separating me from them. For example, I’m a pretty shy person. Sometimes my writing voice gives me a place from which to speak my mind in a way I wish my real self had the courage to do every day. The introverted me also makes it really hard to talk about myself. I’m hoping this conference can help me find my voice as both a writer and as someone with something to say.
So, in short, I am hoping this conference will help me improve my ability to recognize myself as a person and not a character, and that others will see me as a person and not a fifteen-year-old girl.
Parting Words from Meme:
As wonderful long-time member Marylou Streznewski once wrote about the Guild, “Women get brave here.” I know I did.
This summer consider the gift of a Guild experience for someone you love who loves words as you do. Imagine your sister, daughter, student, old school friend, perhaps even a granddaughter sitting beside you as you listen to Susan Tiberghien, laugh across a lunch table, gasp at the poetry of an evening reading.
Last Words from Madeline:
“See you soon!”
Judy Huge has spent more than 40 years as a writer, corporate consultant, and workshop director. She has written a regular business column and contributed frequent travel narratives for the Gannett newspaper and magazine chain. In addition, she is the author of “A Middle Aged Woman and the Sea,” a tale of memoir and transition published in Women in the Wild. Founder of a graduate program in the teaching of writing, she was president of her own national consulting firm. She has conducted a wide variety of workshops for memoir writers and this summer will be teaching Your Past to the Page: The Advanced Memoir Workshop at the IWWG Summer Conference at Muhlenberg College in July as well as at Castle Hill Center for the Arts on Cape Cod in August. In the winter she conducts memoir workshops for the University of South Florida based in Tampa. She also serves as Board Chair of the IWWG.
Madeline Eloise Huge was born on Cape Cod to parents who couldn’t choose between the two children’s books with girls’ first names. She began her writing career early and now at fifteen has developed a portfolio of adventure narratives featuring interesting characters tackling risky tasks. This summer she will be attending her first IWWG Summer Conference with her grandmother, Judy Huge, and expects to expand her repertoire of genres, advisors, and friends.