Poet and memoirist Sascha Feinstein was my mentor during the last stretch toward my MFA. He helped me pull disparate pieces on memory hunting together into a cohesive thesis and, while doing so, pushed me to rethink language and expand moments I’d been avoiding. Later—years later, after I’d written much more—he helped me shape the entire manuscript. I remember when I opened the doc he sent me and showed my husband: He said, just do this and then that, and wow, magic! When Sascha invited me to visit him and his students at Lycoming College, I didn’t think for a second about work, travel, childcare. I just said yes.
As the students pulled out their copies of my book, I knew I’d landed in the most surreal moment since publication day. In Sascha’s advanced poetry course, we talked about craft and process, language and lyricism, beginnings and endings, and the overlap between poetry and creative nonfiction. I was most impressed by the respect and kindness the students showed each other. In half a semester, they’d created an intimate writing community.
Then, with Sascha’s first-year seminar on memoir and metaphor, the discussion turned to content, to the hardest of hard stuff that we all carry with us. The students asked incisive questions, which had me asking questions in return. Trust built fast, and we shared our stories. I was so moved and can’t stop thinking about the students as if they are my own.
Finally, I got to read to a generous crowd in Honors Hall. (Crown by my first-grader.)
Sascha and his wonderful wife, Marleni, who also works at Lycoming, hosted me in a way that made me feel taken care of. (Marleni gave me socks when I most needed them!) I’m in a life phase when taking care of others is a core responsibility, so being taken care of was just awesome.
A huge bonus was spending time with Lisa Davis Tranquillo, my college friend and fellow musical theater player, who drove over from Bucknell world to the land of Lycoming before my reading.
Add to that getting to meet my editor, Pam Dailey, for the first time in person, and an unexpected deep conversation about trauma and memory with the innkeeper the morning before I left, and I think the best word for the trip is fulfilling.