Wolf in Poet’s Clothing

Foggy trees

Here’s what you need to know about me. I learned to read at four years old and have loved books ever since. I write werewolf novels for a living. And I haven’t taken an English class since twelfth grade.

Perhaps that’s why walking into a retreat center full of literary writers felt like willingly throwing myself to the wolves.

Shiftless by Aimee Easterling

“Are you the off-site person?”

I turned, but didn’t really take in anything about the speaker. Instead, my eyes flitted from chatting poet to chatting poet, scanning for signs of danger. “Yes?” I managed, the word lilting upward into a question rather than an admission of fact.

“Your car’s on the golf-cart path…” the retreat-center manager started. But my apology was already erupting before her explanation of my transgression could work itself out.

Exit sign

“I’m so sorry…” Heart racing, cheeks heating, I patted my pockets in search of car keys. Or a protective clove of garlic. I wasn’t exactly sure which.

I knew I was risking ostracism by daring to come here. I knew I should have stayed home in my safe writing den.

Here’s what I didn’t know. After absolving me of all wrongdoing, the manager would stride onto the stage and speak with the same Appalachian lilt I have. She’d share a story shrouded in fog but lacking in poetry then enjoy an ovation so loud my ears would ring.

The poets in the audience would share food and words and boundary-pushing over the course of the weekend. Then we’d all come back together in this same auditorium, reading aloud the results of a closing writing prompt.

Bookstore ladder

“What happened at the retreat was…I came terrified and left elated.”

“What happened at the retreat was…I was so anxious when I walked through the door I could barely breathe.”

“What happened at the retreat was…I didn’t think I’d fit in but did anyway.”

What happened at the retreat was, I embraced my two-natured literary skin.