—by your friendly Blog Editor and UntitledTown Board Member Rebecca Meacham
Tonight, we here in UntitledTown fall into an exhausted sleep, dreaming of readings and audiences and community exchanges that were literally just a dream six months ago.
Tomorrow, and for this entire weekend, our dreams— at least some of them— will come true. Gosh, we hope that they do.
What began as a conversation between Alex Galt and Wendy Wimmer Schuchart in Kavarna Coffeeshop developed, first, into a group of five people, and then a 501c3 non-profit, and then a Board of seven people, with three talented designers, one amazing intern, one dedicated volunteer, and a team of nine bloggers. Our population includes sponsors and librarians and booksellers and students and authors and educators and more. We’re becoming quite a neighborhood.
How the heck did I get here? A writer invited me in.
Out of our UntitledTown crew, I’m the only one not from around here. I’m still learning words like “bubbler” and discerning the nuances of cheeses. I spent most of my life in Ohio, earning degrees along Interstate 75, where I made lifelong friendships and met my husband, a writer.
In 2002, I left Ohio to become a professor at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. How the heck did I end up in Green Bay? I was invited to teach writing, and advise a journal, and lead discussions about the most anguishing and inspiring books in history.
Since childhood, writing and reading are how I’ve found my way into new territory: fresh ideas, intense emotions, and people I’d never meet otherwise— both on the page and in the coffeeshop. It’s a cliche that also happens to be true: writers are outsiders inspired by thresholds, imagining both wall and chisel, both bricklayer and gargoyle.
When my first book was published, I toured my new home state. Who invited me to talk, listen, and learn? Bookstore owners. Librarians. Instructors of literature and writing and their students. My students. Generous readers and fellow writers. Along the way, I heard irresistible stories. In fact, my work-in-progress is inspired by the Peshtigo Fire, which I knew nothing about until I traveled Wisconsin. While my novel is a labor of love, it’s also an expression of gratitude.
Now, my classrooms are noisy with literature majors, dedicated novel writers, book nerds, visionaries, and kick-arse editors. We’re always inviting one another to talk, to listen, to wonder, to argue, to critique, to vent frustrations, to theorize, to venture, to fail, to fail again, to maybe fail some more, and to succeed.
Sometimes, I invite my graduates back to Green Bay to read their own books and advise my students.
Sometimes, I see a former student working a job where they don’t write, and I ask them, What are you reading? What are you writing? Tell me the stories of your life. Tell everyone the stories of your life.
Once invited in by writing, by stories, it seems we just keep inviting people in. Sometimes we’re kind of pushy.
And so while I still struggle to say “Shawano” (two syllables? three?), I’m grateful to be surrounded by people who’ve invited me in, when I could just as easily remain a stranger.
This is what we in UntitledTown dream for you, Green Bay— and for the writers and bookmakers we’ve invited from around Wisconsin, the U.S., and Canada.
Come join us, here in UntitledTown. Stay as long as you like.
Carry your experience home, carry it forward, carry it into the next book you read, the next poem you write, the next town you wander into.
Bring a friend. Bring your 93 year-old neighbor and your third-grade teacher and that nice woman who delivers your mail. Bring your whole family.
And together, we’ll find room.