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Kestrel Celebration: A special event, a smashing success

With fellow poets, Justin Wymer and Sarah Elkins at Two/Two/Eight following the reading on 3/23/

I’m still smiling at the amazing experience I had at Fairmont State University from 3/21-24 for the Kestrel Celebration of Issue #50. From the first dinner for early-arrivals at Muriale’s Italian to two days of readings, a panel discussion with Dr. Donna Long’s poetry students and so much in between, there’s just so much to unpack.

No words can convey my gratitude for the energy and inspiration that took place during that short window of time: on campus, at the Gabor Folklife Center, at the Two/Two/Eight Gallery, The Joe coffeehouse, Aquarium Restaurant, Suzanne Heagy’s house and even at the Dairy Creme Corner, where Lisa Lanser Rose and I each enjoyed an Avalanche (think Blizzard) on our last night there. A magnificent, huge, and delicious Avalanche. With chocolate ice cream and Reece’s peanut butter cups. Although I am pretty sure Lisa didn’t polish hers off, like I did.

I have to especially thank all of the Kestrel editors for their warmth, generosity and hospitality. At every turn, they went out of their way to make everyone feel welcome. I didn’t have transportation, so Donna gamely picked me up and dropped me off at the airport and caravanned me around from place to place the entire time I was there. Elizabeth Savage and Suzanne Heagy, Kestrel’s poetry and fiction editors, respectively, were engaged in every event, and together the whole team worked so hard to make sure everything came off without a hitch.

Having been involved in planning events, I know the end result doesn’t always reflect “how the sausage is made”; there always situations where things don’t go as planned and you have to ad-lib. But whatever the team had to go through to put this weekend on, from my perspective, it was absolutely perfect. I returned having met wonderful new friends in poets Sarah Elkins and Justin Wymer as well as Michael Simms and Rick Campbell, and unforgettable fiction writer and essayist Lisa Lanser Rose. I was able to see West Virginia for the first time and visit Marsh Park, Valley Falls and even Donna’s mare, Shelby, one special afternoon.

The work week hit the day after I returned to Gainesville, and I haven’t had much time to sit and reflect since then. But on my list of things to do this weekend is really delve into Issue #50 and some of the books I returned with by my fellow contributors. It was truly an unforgettable experience. I even sold a few books!