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The Art of Conversation

When I was 18, I ran away to the circus.

I attended a devising intensive in a horse-barn in Maine with theatre and circus practitioners alike. Yes, I learned how to create a ten-minute rendition of a Shakespeare play, how to tell a story with a trapeze act, and how to partner-juggle. But the hardest part of those two-weeks was learning how to speak at a dinner table. To be clear, I grew up in a tightly-wound WASP household where children, especially girls, were seen and not heard. In Maine, however, I would sit for hours and absorb this newfound dinner conversation. I would eat bean by bean, grabbing seconds and thirds just to make myself look occupied enough so that no one would expect me to contribute. The first time I spoke on my own volition was three dinners into the program when I asked if anyone would like to share my dessert. The truth is, I had no idea what I was supposed to say. These people, whose ages ranged over four decades, held no hierarchy in the conversation, nor did they censor any topic of conversation that naturally emerged. I may have learned how to perform handstands and mime tricks, but what does that matter when I couldn’t ask how someone’s day was without my stomach doing backflips?

And in a way, I’m facing these lessons all over again with blogging, except this is an infinite dinner table and there’s no telling what sort of conversation sparks at any given moment. This is the scariest part of my week, silly as that might sound. It’s worth noting that today I’ve consumed two lunches to put off this looming “publish” button.

Although I give credit to the art of observation, I’m too old not to sing for my supper. If I want to provide opportunities for writers to share their voices onstage, I can start by responding and contributing to those online.

So, if I may chime in, would you like to share some dessert?


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