A New Novel and an Old Friend

So I'm not very good about email.  Currently I have 3,045 emails in my inbox.  Every few months I go in and delete thousands of pointless emails that I haven't read, which begs the question:  why am I on all these mailing lists?  I unsubscribe, clean out the inbox, and then the cycle starts all over again.

I ignore 90% of the emails that land in that inbox.

Last week, for some reason, I chose NOT to ignore one.

It came from the good folks at the Office of Letters and Light, custodians of National Novel Writing Month.  Since it's not November, I would normally have just skipped it, but I happened to open this little snippet about Camp Nanowrimo.  Camp?  Camp Nanowrimo?

"An idyllic writer's retreat, smack dab in the middle of your crazy life."

Write a novel during the month of July.  Why not?

July and writing go hand-in-hand for me.  The summer between 7th and 8th grades I attended my first COMPAS Summer Writing Workshop, a week-long "camp" for writers, held that year at Gustavus Adolphus College.  I attended every summer up until my senior year -- at St. Theresa's in Winona, Quadna Mountain Resort, and St. Ben's.  Those weeks were my time to do nothing but learn about my craft and socialize with other writers.  Those were some of the best weeks of my teenage years.  I had the opportunity to work with brilliant local writers like Sandra Benitez, Mary Rockcastle, Sheila O'Connor (who told me I wrote like Anne Tyler!), and Susan Marie Swanson.  Every now and then I run into one of them.

I also made some wonderful friends at my idyllic writer's retreats.  One friend in particular had a great impact on my life for many years.  I met Kate at Quadna Mountain the summer after 9th grade and we clicked immediately.  Even though we lived in different towns and went to different schools, we were close friends for many years, through the thick and thin that every teenager lives through.

As often happens with childhood friends, Kate and I grew apart.  My memory isn't what it once was, so the details are a bit fuzzy.  Years have passed since I last spoke with or saw Kate.  A couple months ago, though, she commented on this blog and we've become friends once more thanks to the world of social media.

I'm thrilled that Kate got back in touch with me and I'm looking forward to having her and her 12-year-old daughter read some of my work.  Many years and even more miles have separated us, yet at the same time it feels like just yesterday that we watched 120 Minutes on MTV together or spent a weekend at the cabin or at her aunt's house in Madison, listening to Rattle & Hum (on cassette). Her emails and blog posts show that, no matter how our lives have changed, she's still my Kate.

So as I spend hours each night working on the first draft of a novel that I will complete in the month of July, I think about my COMPAS summers and the impact those weeks had on my life and I'm so grateful for that opportunity, all that I learned and the dear friends that I made.  I'm especially grateful, still, after all these years, for Kate.

Sara and Kate in our puffy paint t-shirts, July 1989


  1. Squeeeallll! I love it! COMPAS was always the highlight of my summer. I completely forgot about those t-shirts. I was so jealous of your handwriting! Thanks for the friendship over the years. It's so great to be "together" again.


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