St. Augustine: A Place for Piners

One of the best and worst experiences that I had as a Slash Pine intern was the trip that I took to St. Augustine, Florida. Being in a van full of people for ten hours each way tends to give those sorts of experiences in my opinion. So does getting to explore a beautiful, historic city by yourself, especially if you are writing while you explore.

The point of this trip was to attend the Other Words Literary Conference, so we got up “bright and early” to meet Lucas Southworth and drive all the way to St. Augustine. Our first stop was a barbeque place called Fat Girls. They had really great food, and this started Blake, Carlos, and Will’s bread pudding exploration. They proceeded to order bread pudding at every restaurant for the duration of the trip.

The next morning we actually did get up early, 6:00 AM our time, and met with Patti White and Karen Gardiner to go to the first panel at the conference. After we listened to the panel, Patti told us that we were free until lunch. Somehow we all still ended up at the Spice and Tea Exchange for “Write St. Augustine,” the writing exercise that the Slash Pine interns partnered with the staff of FLARE: The Flagler Review to provide for the conference. I believe that some of the most interesting found poems that I have ever heard came from that site. Lucas had a particularly amusing one.

Lunch at A1A was one of my favorite food experiences of the trip. They make their own beers and root beer. I do not drink soda anymore, but I made an exception to try homemade root beer. Not only was it delicious, it seemed to be noncarbonated. My least favorite food experience came at Harry’s Bar and Grill. I did not eat very much to begin, but we also lost the game to Texas A&M that evening. That completely ruined the rest of the night for me, but I was exhausted anyway, so I went back to the hotel and slept my blues away.

Day two of the conference brought on more panels and more food. I also managed to do some shopping and exploring. I sat with Patti and Karen at a panel of writers speaking about the writing that they do as a group. They each have sketchbooks or journals, and they contribute and pass it on to the next writer in the group. Some of the drawings were absolutely beautiful. After the panel, I went off by myself to do some more writing for Write St. Augustine. It took me forever to find the Love Tree on Cordova Street. Looking at the trees themselves is not so impressive, but knowing that the two trees’ symbiotic relationship is so vital inspires the love letters that the prompt called for.

Some of my family lives very near St. Augustine, and they drove down to visit me. That was definitely a highlight of the trip for me, considering that I only see these family members about once every three years. That meant not having lunch with the rest of the Slash Pine crew at Columbia, but Patti agreed that Conch House was a very nice alternative.

The evenings were very interesting. We all went to the readings in Ponce de Leon Hall on the campus of Flagler. This building is absolutely gorgeous! It was refreshing to come listen to everyone read after a full day of writing, exploring, and listening to panels about writing. This may have been the part of the trip that made the biggest impression upon me. Hearing all of the people involved with the conference read, whether they were students or editors of reviews, was very inspiring. Learning how intimate the writing world can be was probably the most valuable experience from this trip in relation to being a Slash Pine intern though. All of the writers at the conference seemed to know several of the other writers. Seeing Patti interact with her publisher is only one example of how closely knit the writing world can be.

-Amber Brown

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