Thursday, October 7, 2010
Marjorie Agosin, my dear friend and wonderful writer and activist, came and went in a whirl of motion and words. She arrived at the airport Monday afternoon, and we sounded like schoolgirls, hugging and squealing with joy at seeing each other again.
I am always surprised when I see Marjorie again, because in my mind, I remember her as taller. She is tiny, in reality, but she's such a larger-than-life mind and presence that my mind plays the trick on me of remembering her as only slightly shorter than I am.
I had cleared everything else off my calendar for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, in order to drive her around and take care of her and enjoy her company. So, in between all the events and interviews on her itinerary, on the city streets and the highway to and from Lawrence, Kansas, we talked and talked. We talked about mutual friends, about Macondo, about teaching, about how necessary it is to be optimistic and have hope if you are to remain an activist in this world, about our children and husbands (we are both extraordinarily lucky there!), about the Midwest, about Chile, about Kansas City and Wellesley as places to live, about politics, about culture and identity, but above all, always and over and over about writing. I am exhausted from all the events and driving, but so energized for all my writing projects. Talking with Marjorie is like plugging into a battery of creativity!
At her first major event, a talk and reading at the downtown branch of the Kansas City Public Library after a reception featuring Chilean sea bass in honor of Marjorie, we had a full house in the stately Helzberg Auditorium, and Marjorie kept the audience mesmerized. Afterward, the Q&A went on and on until I finally had to cut it off to allow time for book signing and a dinner with the Latino Writers Collective and some of our friends and supporters afterward. The diverse audience drew from various neighborhoods of the greater Kansas City metropolitan area with people from the inner city to some from the wealthiest suburbs. Yet they made an emotional community, drawn together by Marjorie's openness and her stories and poetry. They stayed late, talking with Marjorie and each other afterward and making connections they might never have made otherwise.
The next morning was full of interviews, and then we were off to the University of Kansas in Lawrence. First on the schedule was a discussion with graduate students from creative writing and Spanish/Latin American studies. This was a great group of students with incisive questions and discussion. Marjorie was as generous as she always is and connected some with academics who were doing research in their fields of interest. She even advised a young novelist on how to market his manuscript.
After a lovely dinner with some of the department chairs who made her visit to KU possible, we went to the KU Student Union to another stately room for another mesmerizing talk and reading by Marjorie, followed by more curious questions and a book signing. It was stimulating and great, but tiring--and was followed by the hour-long drive back to KC.
On Wednesday, it was so sad to say good-bye at the airport and know it will be months until we see each other at AWP. But what a gift this visit from one of our time's most gifted and remarkable women was--for all of us!
... And then, straight from the airport to Avila University to take part in a Latino Writers Collective reading. But that's a story for tomorrow.