by Kristen E. Nelson
I got to study with Rebecca (mother-f***ing) Brown. That’s sometimes how I say her name when I get excited about Rebecca, and once you read/meet/encounter/learn from Rebecca, you continue to be excited about her. I read her short story collection What Keeps Me Here and then read all of her books. I was in love with this writer. A few years later I was weeping in her office about ripped open hearts and possibilities. She recommended that I read the letters of John Keats. She listened while I cried out years of hiding from possibility. And this was before our first workshop together. Dear Goddard, thank you forever for Rebecca Brown. Love, Kristen
I swam naked under a new moon in a quarry. There were fireflies.
I remembered how to fall in love. I’m not talking about books and writing. Goddard busted me so far open that I fell in love with a person. I hadn’t loved in years. I shut down my heart after a seven-year abusive relationship. But then I was in the magic hollow in Plainfield, Vermont and this beautiful, mysterious person pressed their face against the window screen and I caught them spying on me reading a hymn I had just written about my dead father and they saw me seeing them and they smiled (oh and their black eyes oh and their smile) and they came inside.
I wrote a book.
I did not have to hide my cards. Rachel Pollack taught a workshop on using Tarot as a tool for writing fiction. I gifted readings almost every night of each residency.
Bhanu introduced me to the work of Sophie Calle and walked me to the library up that hill in the pine trees past the strange building the architecture students built that was always left unlocked for exploration. She put Exquisite Pain in my hands and my writer’s heart burst.
I learned that cowboy boots are not the same as snow boots and a pair of tights under a cotton dress is not Vermont winter wear.
A straight white man wearing a black fedora crossed the street to complement me for wearing a pink fedora with a chicken feather.
I prayed to the Salem witches again, but this time they heard me.
*(I stole this title from Bhanu Kapil because I know I can, and I know that because she was my mentor and queen unicorn at Goddard College. Maybe this parenthetical should begin this. No, it should end.)
Kristen Elissa Nelson is the author of Write, Dad (Unthinkable Creatures Chapbook Press, 2012). She has published creative work in The Feminist Wire, The Volta, Denver Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Tarpaulin Sky Journal, Dinosaur Bees, Quarter After Eight, Spiral Orb, Glitter Tongue, The Dictionary Project, Trickhouse, In Posse Review, Cranky, and Everyday Genius, among others. She is a founder and the Executive Director of Casa Libre en la Solana, a non-profit writing center in Tucson, Arizona; the Queen Bee of a community of writers and other artists; the program coordinator for The University of Arizona Institute for LGBT Studies; and a writing teacher. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. Her website is: www.kristenenelson.com.