writing on the prairie

Last week, Jen and I were in the panhandle of Nebraska, which is the Northwestern corner, almost Wyoming or South Dakota. She was there on an instructorship, me on a scholarship, and I tell you, it felt like being celebrities. Although I suppose everywhere we go together, her and me, it feels like that.

We have completed four MFA residencies, one Write on the River, one road trip to Milwaukee, one AWP Conference in Tampa, one trip to L.A., and one prairie retreat, all of them together. There is nothing we can’t do, between the two of us. We learned that last Tuesday when we changed a tire.

Now I’ve changed a tire before. Wait, more accurately, I’ve been in need of tire changing before. Once in Tacoma when I got a ride with a stranger to an auto parts store for a lug wrench and once on I-90 returning home from Spokane, when it was pitch black in the country and Karen and Joel and I called a policeman to do it for us because we didn’t know how.

But with Jen, I could do it. I pulled out the tools, using the instruction manual, and discovered how to lower the tire from the undercarriage of her minivan. We were doing good until it came time to unhinge the tire from the tether cable. Jen called Triple A, who would come change the tire for $80 in god knows how long since we were so far out in the middle of nowhere. While she was on the phone, before giving them her credit card, I watched a youtube video and found out how to release the tire and Jen excitedly told the Triple A customer service agent we didn’t need help afterall and she jacked up the van and we loosened the lug nuts and just like that, we changed a tire. To say it was empowering would be an understatement. We became prairie women in that moment, which is to say the kind of women who get dirty and figure shit out and don’t complain.

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The sun comes up early on the prairie, I mean real fucking early. This was taken at 5:49 a.m. and so we got a lot done each day, neither of us able to sleep in the sunlight. We jammed about writing, we laughed our asses off, she started an essay, I outlined my graduating lecture. We are an unstoppable force.

IMG_9695We took pictures of small town (village?) places, like an abandoned motel with a goldless pot at the end of the rainbow.

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When the sun melted chocolate, prairie girls drink it down like a gogurt. Prairie girls make the most of it, buck up, don’t complain.

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We stayed at Ft. Robinson State Park and made friends with the locals, participated in workshops, gave sexy readings. The rodeo was canceled due to weather so we watched the storm pass through from the covered porch with our drinks, watched the sky turn from gray to yellow to green to pink to blue.

We made friends, exchanged business cards and addresses. On the way home, we stopped in the sandhills.

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There I found this ring that suits me and bought it to remind me of the time I spent on the prairie, of how important my writing is, of the people who share it with me.

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If writers can tour like bands do, which means together, that is what Ipp and I will do. Because damn, it’s always better when we’re together.

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