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Ryan Mecklenburg is an Associate Editor for Potomac Review, currently living the literary retreat life at Breadloaf.

My workshop group with Amy Hempel went well.  A strong group of writers met in the Tamarack living room and discussed stories by Eugene Cross and Cara Adams, both promising writers.  The real highlight of the workshop is not only being in the same room with Amy Hempel, a warm, nurturing instructor, but also having the influence of the workshop fellow, James Hannaham.

Following the workshops, Breadloaf attendees met in the Little Theatre for readings by Stanley Plumly and Elizabeth Strout.  Plumly gave a low key, but pleasant reading, and ended the last poem with a quaint wave to the audience.

Following him was Elizabeth Strout, 2009’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  She read from the winning collection of stories, Olive Kitteridge.  She read the story, “Incoming Tide”, a beautiful story about a suicidal man whose plans are interrupted by the quirky title character, Olive Kitteridge.  A brilliant story.

I had read the collection before hand, and have to say I was surprised how Ms. Strout read the voice of Olive Kitteridge.  I had always pictured Olive as a gruffer woman, whereas Ms. Strout, in this particular story, read her as more lighthearted.  I’m sure people will disagree with my original interpretation (perhaps even Ms. Strout herself).  Perhaps I need to go back and read it again, and find I disagree with myself.

The final reading of the night featured three of the Breadloaf fellows: Nami Mun, who read from her novel about a couple high on dust; Margot Livesey, a Scottish writer, who read from a short piece about her early experience with marijuana and kissing boys; and Carl Phillips, who read from his book of poetry, drank continually from a glass of gin under the podium, and couldn’t decide if he had patterns in his presentation at readings, which all says nothing about his striking, brilliant style.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t gung-ho enough to stay up for the History of Breadloaf slide presentation, or the readings by the scholar award winners.  Two days down, eight to go.

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