A Perfect Summer Day.....


Loon Lake, Rangeley, Maine

The President of The Telling Room board, Susan Conley, finished her term in June.

Susan is one of the founders of The Telling Room (with Sara Corbett and Mike Paterniti). They are all three authors – and fascinating individuals. I am honored to have spent time with, and learned from, them over my last two years as a board member.

Our end of year board gathering was in Susan’s home, a warm and inviting space to come together casually. Our next board President asked all of us to bring a gift to Susan upon her departure – 4 writing prompts.

Susan is all about writing prompts.

The Teaching Artists at The Telling Room are amazing at bringing out the kids’ creativity. Often, they start classes or summer programs with a writing prompt. It’s like doing warm ups before exercising. It gets the kinks out and their creative juices flowing. It breaks the ice as they get to know their fellow students with whom they’ll be spending the next hour or week, or year in the case of the Young Writers and Leaders program.

Often, Susan opens our board meetings with a writing prompt that we must each take 3-5 minutes quietly writing and then share with the group.

Wisely, Susan always wants us to experience what the kids coming to The Telling Room live.

We sit at their wooden tables in the whimsical, colorful space on Commercial Street in downtown Portland. We can use their stubby pencils or a crayon if we’ve forgotten our own writing instrument. We eat popcorn out of their large red snack bowl.

A couple of our board writing prompts have been:

  • I am from ……

(physically, figuratively, or where you wish you were from)

  • Something you may not know about me is…..

I had so much fun coming up with my four for Susan’s parting gift.

And then went on to write 20 for myself which I’ve now tucked into a “Writing Prompts” folder for me to call upon when I may be a little stuck or seeking inspiration. Or need a warm up.

I am grateful Susan (and Sara and Mike) had the spark of inspiration to dream up The Telling

Room and then the drive and commitment to follow through to make this community of writing a reality.

Its positive impact on now over 3,000 students is wound into their legacy and what they’ve given to others. I have grown and learned so much under their tutelage. And……

  • A perfect summer day was…….

Maybe take 3-5 minutes writing quietly (or thinking) yourself before you read mine.

Let the prompt take you to a special memory.

Linger there just a moment or two to enjoy it. I’ll do the same.

A perfect summer day for me was in 2011, July, Loon Lake, Rangeley, Maine.

We were renting a lake house there for our annual summer vacation – “Away at a Camp in Maine.” We’ve rented camps on lakes since my younger son was 1, nearly every year for 21 years.

That particular lake house is a perfect fit for me – I love it. The solitude and privacy of the wooded property; the lake that doesn’t allow motor boats due to how shallow and rocky it is; the wildness of the landscape, ungroomed, with a solitary Adirondack chair strategically placed on a tiny bluff, in the trees on the lake shore. There’s a tiny black metal breakfast table with two chairs we can easily bring down on the dock with our morning coffee. The décor of the log home is precisely my taste; the kitchen is outfitted for cooks. I have better pans on vacation than I do at home.

There are miles of unpaved roads we can walk that pass wildflowers, hidden ponds, and moose.

On my perfect summer day, we kayaked early morning to the far end of the lake. It was already getting hot.

That end of the small lake has no camps, no roads, no outside access. It’s pristine wilderness.

The quiet on that summer morning was like nothing I had ever experienced. There was no one around except us. A mountain loomed to my right. Water bugs skittled across the surface of the flat calm of the lake water. I could occasionally see a fish swim languidly beneath my paddle.

We floated, not paddling, not speaking. Drinking it all in. The magic of this wilderness.

My older son was doing an internship at Universal Records in New York City that week; he couldn’t join us that year at the lake.

We paused to consider how different his morning looked, felt, sounded, smelled….compared to ours.

It’s a morning, I will never forget.

A perfect summer day…..

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