As writers, we do have our favorite and trusted resources, even talismans—the fragile and
yellowed Roget’s paperback, the well-loved poem to prime the pump, and that blank wall canvas before us. Around us we have what is familiar, comforting and challenging. Pencils
with the perfect point, the sun just rising and seeping into our poems, the smells of cut grass of Geneva lacrosse fields. For nearly 15 years, I had Joan as my most constant writing companion. Joan. Joan
came to Aurora or Wells to write with her electric typewriter, the almost immediate search to find ribbons that have been
left at home, and deadlines. She set up this incredible secondary universe—of books she was reading and wanted to recommend,
the pillows that were her most comfortable reading position, towels and towels and laundry baskets.
My souvenirs of writing camp are folders of drafts of beginnings, fragments of near poems, and
the writings in between summers marked by her directions, questions and exclamations of glee. Joan kept me honest and disciplined
about writing. There was no easy grace, no throwaway line, no unearned last line that survived her review. I could not use
the differences in our lives to let a piece of unclear writing get by or ambiguous punctuation. This gift has given me my
greatest freedom as a writer and I am grateful to Joan.
Most of all, Joan taught me about deadlines. I came to camp with the idea that the best environment
was one with no boundaries, no obligations, and no deadlines. The products of writing seemed that they should be miracles
of creation somehow disembodied from the tasks of daily living. The mythology of the poem as I had understood it came to an
end. It was an unhappy demythologizing process for me. Writing was not just waiting for the bus to arrive. It was thinking
about destination and routes and costs and who else would be there for the ride.
Joan taught me about the love of words, correct punctuation and friendship that goes the distance.
Her own writing taught me that writing can change hearts and minds. Her life taught me about deadlines and how they are not
barriers but opportunities. And it is her spirit that accompanies me as I put on courage before the blank page or today’s
stack of muddled paragraphs.