It is a twenty-minute drive from my house in the suburbs to James Thurber’s in the city. I want to drive alone but my mother doesn’t let me. On Wednesday night it is raining, and I can barely make out the lane lines on the road; Mom tells me about the book that she has brought with her to read in the upstairs bedrooms of the Thurber House while I participate in the workshop. The windshield wipers swish quickly, back and forth, back and forth.
We coast the loop in front of our destination, headlights glossing the rain in yellow, splattering across the windshield. There is a notebook tucked under my arm and I sprint from the car, whimpering in the frigid downpour, towards the safety of Thurber’s front porch. When I twist the doorknob it rattles in its socket, but the door pushes open and, at last, I am dry.
“Hey!” Kelli is sitting in the living room and she hands me a Sharpie, pushing a sheet of blank nametags in my direction across the table. We talk about our lives, and the weather, and I tread across the creaky floorboards into the parlor, where everyone else waits.
It is loud, and warm. People are laughing, hugging notebooks to their chests, the lines of their faces fold into blithe, easy smiles. I stop worrying about my chemistry test, the book report that I need to do for tomorrow. The relief is total and immediate.
When I sit down a garland from the mantle dangles into my lap and I guide it back into position, wrapping its edges around the wooden frame of the mirror. We talk, loudly, all of us, until Kelli comes into the room with a stack of papers to hand out.
We dive in; one person is reading her work and everyone else is silent, intent. We love what she’s done – we tell her this, and she smiles. For half an hour we analyze her work, every facet, every dip and dive and curve of the language and the plot. We write her notes and offer advice and, when we are done, we clap. She blushes.
We eat cookies and chocolate in the dining room; we drink water, or juice, or soda. En masse, we pile back into our seats and pull out pens, setting them to paper for the next hour where we will bear our souls to the ink. It is silent but the air is thick with creative voice, and when I look around people seem happy, here, doing what it is that they love.
It is still raining outside, two hours later. I thrust my notebook into my mother’s lap so that she can read what I’ve just written, something that I am always, always proud of. She lets me drive home.
By Ellen Waddell, New Albany High School Student
Registration for the Winter/Spring Young Writers’ Studio session is available at www.thurberhouse.org