A couple of months ago I received an invitation to mentor some novelists at the Calliope Workshop for Fiction and Nonfiction Authors, hosted at the offices of Taliesin Nexus in Los Angeles, California. Deeply honored, I accepted.
As the weeks flew by and I received manuscripts from the writers I would mentor, the specter of Hurricane Irma rose in the Caribbean, heading straight for my home state of Florida. Every day I checked the projected paths, spaghetti models, and weather forecasts, all of which said the same thing: Irma was coming, and if I attended the workshop, I would be leaving my wife and son to face the storm alone. Despite this, Mrs Dubrow, who is easily the most capable person I know, insisted I go.
So, heart in my mouth, I went.
We had been preparing for such a storm for years: our house is situated in a non-evacuation zone, which means that it’s the sort of place you want to evacuate to if there’s any risk of flooding. We had landscaped in such a way as to minimize the danger of trees crashing through the roof (trees on our property, anyway), and we had acquired plenty of water and food if everything went to pot. And, best of all, we live close to a hurricane shelter in case the gale drives our neighbors’ tree limbs through our windows. While it’s impossible to prep for every contingency, we were ready.
And yet, I worried.
As for the workshop, it was a transformative experience. There’s nothing like teaching others the fundamentals to keep you yourself learning, and in between mentoring sessions, a number of brilliant and successful writers gave panel discussions, like Adam Bellow, Robert Bidinotto, Ann Bridges, Nick Cole, Andrew Klavan, and Ken Lizzi. David Bernstein of Liberty Island led a discussion on marketing and sales. Michael Walsh was the keynote speaker. Best of all, I met my friend David Angsten face to face at long last; David, another panelist, recommended me for this gig, and he’s one of those rare people you like more and more the better you know him. I was also privileged to meet Andrew Malcolm of Hot Air, as well as some other columnists whose material I had read and enjoyed over the years.
Irma hung over everything. In the layover between connecting flights to California, the airline canceled my flight home, days in advance. The hurricane was scheduled to hit the west coast of Florida late Sunday night, and all models projected it to rampage over my very neighborhood in its path along the state. I was helpless to do anything but worry and pray, like most Floridians, but I was the one who fled and left his family behind (a silly thought, but it’s one of the things that occupies one’s mind in anxious moments). Because I didn’t know when I might be able to get home again, I arranged to fly to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, figuring I’d stay with my older brother and his family until I could catch the next flight to Tampa. I spent Sunday night in an agony of worry until I heard from my wife, who told me that the electricity had gone out but everyone was fine.
Imagine my relief.
Once the storm drifted north, the airport opened again. The earliest flight I could get would take me halfway across the country to Dallas, Texas. Then, after a four-hour layover, from Dallas to Tampa. Not fun, but compared to what people in the Florida Keys and the Caribbean were going through, it was nothing. First-world problems. During that time, my wife and son checked into a hotel near the airport, because it’s next to impossible to live without air conditioning in Florida. My Dallas to Tampa flight was delayed four more hours, and I wasn’t reunited with my family until four o’clock in the morning that Friday.
Three days later (eight days after the storm blew out our power), electricity was restored to my house. We were among the last in the county to get power back. For us, the disaster was over.
As the things I learned, saw, and did in L.A. sort themselves into the various corners of my mind, I find myself overwhelmed by gratitude.
Thanks to God for sparing my family. Others weren’t so fortunate.
Thanks to the Calliope Workshop for putting such faith in me.
Thanks to David Angsten for recommending me for the job.
Thanks to my brother and his family, who took me in.
And last but definitely not least, thanks to Mrs Dubrow, who could’ve asked me to stay behind, but didn’t.