This past Saturday thirty writers and I do a most amazing thing. We attend a writing marathon at some of the most iconic of downtown Shreveport’s settings. Yeah, really. Our group of six walk (and ride in Loretta’s van) to each of six destinations, settle in and write for an hour. At least that’s what we do for the first two hours.
First stop: The Municipal Auditorium. Elvis played here, and it was the home of the Louisiana Hayride. But for me in the 60s, it was the First Methodist Church family night before the church had its own theater and standing in the hall in my high school graduation gown, waiting to march in. As an adult it was where Jimmy Carter came to celebrate the Community Renewal anniversary, and recently where I attended the Bob Dylan concert. Six women are separately sitting on the first level of seats, while four men clang and toss folded chairs onto the stage, cleaning up after an event from the night before.
Second stop: Holy Cross Episcopal Church, in the Anglican tradition, built in the early 1900s. The smell of an old church…Max Edmondson’s funeral…my English literature teacher sitting just yards from me in today’s group. I am reminded of the European architecture to which she introduced us. I sit in the choir loft, working on my voice.
Third stop: Oakland Cemetery, 150 year old cemetery which is the final resting place of some of Shreveport’s first citizens. The yellow fever mound where bodies were buried in a mass grave. And lunch from a food truck. Haley, from the arts council, asks me, the leader, if our group is sharing. Gulp, no. We’ve been writing.
Fourth stop: The Ogilvie-Weiner manor, once known as the Florentine. A derelict mansion slowly being restored. At this stop the group shares the entire hour sitting among Christmas trees and fall decorations of fake orange leaves and walls stripped to their studs and talking of today’s writing experience. Then four teachers, two African American and two Caucasian, begin comparing experiences being some of the first teachers at the beginning of desegregation in the South. These are deep discussions, honest discussions. Is it because we have spent so much time writing of our lives? We discover connection at the Florentine.
Fifth stop: The Kallenberg Artist Tower. Once the fire tower for the central fire station, it is now a renovated visiting artist residence. Five floors, five tiny rooms, and lots of stairs. Three of us sit at the kitchen table on the third level writing; three others one level below in the “sitting room” continuing to share.
Sixth stop: The Korner Lounge. A dark, narrow gay bar with “The Golden Girls” on the television monitors, video poker in the back room, and a fishbowl half full of condoms. We sit on stools at high tables, all of us now back to writing.
Then there is a two-hour break before the whole group meets back for margaritas and nachos and readings.
From the breakfast at 8:30 to the end of the evening gathering at 8:30, my energy never waned. It was an amazing event.