My expectations were high for the opening of TCRWP’s June Writing Institute as I walked into Riverside Church almost an hour before the keynote address was scheduled to begin. I got there early because I knew I wanted a seat up front where I could see Lucy Calkin’s face clearly. I learned last year, as I watched her every morning from the front row of my large group section, that while she sounds serious and speaks with incredible authority, her eyes and facial muscles are in quiet motion. She is great fun to watch.
She began right on time, telling us that we come from different places of the heart as well as different places on the map, urging us to go beyond, to risk being vulnerable and above all to think about the way that we listen. Lucy challenged us to listen in a way that brings out the honest detail. “Listen with faith and expectation,” she told us. Faith that makes the writer think and say more than she thought she had to say.
Lucy quoted Annie Lamott. I love Annie Lamott, and when Lucy quoted her, it made me love Lucy even more than I had before she’d begun speaking. Lamott, said Calkins, said that to be a teacher you have to learn to be reverent and that our goal as teachers is to watch our students at work and to be startled and filled with awe. We need to listen to and read their stories with wonder. When we listen in that way, a way that pushes and expects more, she told us, writers learn that kind of listening too. The payoff, she told us is not just beautiful writing, it is beautiful living.
My expectations for her keynote were high. Lucy Calkins did not disappoint.