Open Up the Suitcase

“Our true genius” said the workshop leader, with love,  “lies in the deep reservoir of our own stories.” I looked around the room. People were nodding and writing this down. I was too busy smiling like a weirdo because one of my dreams had come true.

This past weekend, I had the distinct honor of attending a workshop led by Pat Schneider in celebration of her new book, How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice. I’ve fantasized about that moment since I first familiarized myself with the text Writing Alone and With Others in preparation for my training as a workshop leader at the NYWC, and the fantasy-turned-reality didn’t disappoint. Being in her presence is truly an honor. She is the kindest teacher of writing the world has ever seen, and her writing (especially her poetry, especially especially her NEW poetry) is mindblowing. She is honest, fierce, witty, and unbelievably smart. Participating in her workshop reminded me of why the AWA method–her brainchild–really matters: people have brilliant minds, and those brilliant minds don’t get talked about nearly enough.

But I’d like to take this moment to explain a less-publicized aspect of Pat Schneider’s awesomeness: the suitcase.

It’s exactly what it should look like. Leather, boxy, worn-in. Soft and hard at the same time. Classic-looking. Full of history. A “reservoir of our own stories.”  As you can see in the photo provided,  the years have provided the briefcase with a billion different choices, opportunities, chances for inspiration. Pat (first name basis, it’s no big deal) likes to spread out the contents of the briefcase on a blanket, tell people to pick one up, hold it, and see what comes to them. Think of all the essays, stories, poems, images, and turns of phrase that these items have led to over the years. That is so beautiful. So this week, we steal from Pat Schneider.

Walk around and find an item in your house that feels like it’s infused with a story. Hold it in your hands and write what comes to you. Or imagine you have access to Pat Schneider’s case of stories. Heck, imagine you ARE the suitcase! Or, write whatever the idea of “a suitcase full of stories” makes you think of.