John C. Campbell Folk School

For years, my mom had been talking about wanting to take a class at the John C. Campbell Folk School and she wanted me to go with her. Over a decade ago, we’d attended a summer program for educators at Savannah College of Art and Design and had a blast. We decided to have another mother/daughter experience and go to the folk school this summer. I found places for my kids and Mom found us a house/pet sitter. Mom chose a woodturning class and I chose the writing class.

I didn’t pick a “one word” for myself this year, but one that would have fit is “risk.” I’ve been choosing to step out and do things that don’t feel safe. Choosing to take a writing class with strangers fit “risk” well. I knew I’d be faced with writing prompts with a time limit, followed by sharing with the strangers in my class.

Our group met awkwardly the first night. I wasn’t the only nervous one. We were composed of one teacher, Val Nieman, and six women. The next morning, we wrote our first pieces and shared with each other. As we critiqued each other’s work, it became apparent that this was a safe place to share with one another. The feedback we, teacher included, gave each other was encouraging and helpful. Throughout the week, we laughed together and cried together. Roxie reached deep inside to find connections between the present and the past. Carolyn shared her beautifully descriptive writing and the funniest true story of the week. Gini joined us in the midst of post-surgery recovery and composed a deep and flowing poem about North Carolina’s life and roots. Another member left us speechless with her personal poetry, read in her captivating voice. Emily transformed life experiences into thought-provoking creative non-fiction. I was the sole fiction writer along with some non-fiction.

Writing Class

When the week came to an end, we experienced the sadness of leaving friends. Three of us who remained until Saturday’s breakfast decided to start an online writing group. We’re off to a slow start, but summer is a busy time. Hopefully, it will continue and thrive. I miss them.

While I was in my writing class, Mom was in her wood-turning class. She came to meals all week with sawdust in her name tag! She made a bowl and plate, among other things.

The campus is large and spread out. Most of us walked from the dining hall to our classes. With Mom’s back issues, we bought a little scooter for her, that she used to ride to and from her class. Here are some views of the campus, and of Mom with the scooter.

Two dogs wander the campus and get plenty of scratches and belly rubs. One day I gave them water from a cup. When we drove back to the on-campus campground, they found us and spent the evening with us. When I went to bed in the tent, where Mom was already asleep, the small dog jumped through the hole as I zipped the tent shut. “Oh well,” I thought, and let him stay. He curled up on my bed and we settled in for the night. It was fine until a car backfired and he launched himself onto Mom’s cot!

It was an expensive week, but it was worth it. I had a fun time with my mom, a week free of parenting, productive writing time, and I met new friends. If you ever have the chance to go there, I recommend it!





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