Yesterday I attended a fun activity-packed day at the first San Diego Writers Festival. I enjoyed the layers of activities allowing many moments of engaging with new people, chatting with friends, and being entertained by music, poetry, readings and workshops. Some highlights were the inspiring, funny and punchy poetry of Gil Sotu, as well as an informative talk on memoir writing by Brooke Warner of #shewritespress. I even bought three children’s books, signed by cheerful authors for my 3 year-old grandson.
The outdoor courtyard was filled with vendor tables covered in white linens, where writers displayed books. I got to share a table in the warm Spring sun with another author, who like me loves art and writing. Many people of the city attended this free event. I was glad I had baked 4 dozen blueberry and cinnamon mini-muffins the night before, which were free and attracted writers, non-writers, and the general public, a number of whom happened to be homeless. Kids came by asking for muffins too. Here are a few characters I met.
I chatted with a wavy-haired young man in lavender glasses who sits on street corners or in parks, chats with passersby and writes a poem about them on an actual typewriter, then gives them the poem. He had written a book with pictures of his poems from the streets of America. There was a tall, white haired man, age 60ish, looking at my book cover who said, “I don't do relationships. I am happy, single, white, and alone”, and proudly grinned a wide toothy smile. He had a twinkle of humor so I began singing, “I am a rock, I am an island…” to give him his own theme song. He nodded his head and laughed in agreement as he walked away.
Later, a middle-aged woman came by, gobbled a muffin, looked at my book and said, “I don’t want relationships. I am done with that.” I responded, “You are the second person today who said that!” Unlike Mr. Tall, she said that it was an intimate partner that she did not want anymore, but that her friends kept her going. I told her that the book is not just for couples, but also for everyone. I explained that there are communication tools for dealing with children, co-workers, and friends – both listening with compassion and expressing your self with assertive clarity, even in conflict. She frowned, shrugged and moved on, done with the muffin, done with me.
Not everyone was disinterested in my book. I actually sold more books to men than women yesterday. One guy bought a book then brought another friend over to meet me. People wandering by would pause at the table, pick up the book and flip through it. Some were interested in skills to better communicate with a particular person, some wanted tools to handle their anger or fear, and some wanted the book for someone they love. I listened and showed them how their particular issue was addressed in the book. I like being able to provide a practical guide to reduce human suffering through better communication.
But I understand the need to reduce suffering by reducing contact at times. When someone has injured us, sometimes walling our self off on our own island works.
I am aware that there are times I choose to be alone due to my need for respite from some unpleasantness with other people. But it is temporary. Eventually I feel some hunger to reach out, if even for a mini-muffin size dollop of human connection.