Motherhood & Words

Let me count the ways…a love letter to River Teeth

For the past four years, one of the highlights of my spring has been the River Teeth Nonfiction Conference at Ashland University. I’ve written about it here on Motherhood & Words before, and all of those things I lauded in the past still hold true. The conference is small, intimate, and chock-full of talks and readings by brilliant writers. Joe Mackall and Dan Lehman and Sarah Wells have really created something extraordinary, and I’m always honored to participate. Plus, I get to hang out with some of my favorite people.

This year the conference kicked off with a reading by Jerald Walker, who blew me away. If you haven’t read “How to Make a Slave,” which he read Friday night, and which is in Best American Essays 2014, you must go out right this minute and get a copy. Walker is the author of Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption, which I can’t wait to read. He’s not only talented, but warm and generous, as well.

Saturday was full of inspiring craft talks, and the day was topped off with a reading by Cheryl Strayed. Over the years I’ve heard Cheryl read and talk at various conferences, but this was the perfect setting, and she was fabulous, full of her usual grace. (And she read new material, which was stunning.)

Sunday continued with more fabulous craft talks and a conversation between Cheryl and Joe, and then wrapped up with a great talk by Steven Church.

(There were so many memorable quotes from the weekend, which you can find on Twitter; just follow #RTNC2015.)

I went into the weekend lamenting the fact that all of my summer teaching was on the chopping block because of low enrollment, but by the time I flew home on Monday I had done a 180. A weekend immersed in thinking about writing was just what I needed to adjust my attitude. Thank you, River Teeth. Now I’m excited to get back to my own work, to spend the summer playing with words. My goal for the coming months is to embrace a slower pace of life, to spend time writing, gardening, running, and hanging out with my family.

How do you want to spend your summer?

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. patricia on June 10, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    Oh, Kate, I loved the conference so much! Thanks for letting me know about it, via that tweet about the archives last year. The talk you and Sonya gave was so helpful; I’m glad I can re-watch it! I came home completely inspired to tackle my projects–and with plans to go back next year with a partial manuscript.

    Wishing you a productive summer with your own work!

    • Kate on June 11, 2015 at 8:03 am

      I’m so glad, Patricia! Isn’t it just the best? It was so lovely to see you, and next year, let’s plan to sit next to each other more often! Happy summer and lots of writing to you, too!