“solitude (when desired) and a close network of writers…”

meg bernhard photoIt’s really hot here, like 101 degrees. I’m sitting in the Temecula Public Library because this seems to be the only silent place in the city, and even with the a/c running, it’s warm. When I was in Iowa, one of my favorite haunts was the Prairie Lights cafe, where I would order a Russian teacake and an iced rose mélange and pore over my seminar readings or works-in-progress. Once, I walked to Prairie lights during a downpour, and when I found my seat at the cafe, I took off my soaking shoes and stared at the rain-splattered Dubuque Street. It was beautiful, in a soggy/gray sort of way. Thinking about the rain right now, the familiarity of the bookstore and the inspiration it provided, makes me feel home-sick.

Home is an abstract concept, but over the course of two weeks I learned to define it and even rediscover it within Iowa City. In my class, “Literary Swagger” with A. Naomi Jackson, we read a lot of pieces concerned with the idea of home and its impact on the individual, including Junot Díaz’s “Fiesta 1980,” Edwidge Danticat’s “Children of the Sea,” and Paule Marshall’s “Poets in the Kitchen.” These readings, along with my daily meanderings throughout Iowa City and my classes, helped me understand the saying “home is where the heart is.” Iowa City gave me what Temecula, my hometown of seventeen years, never could: solitude (when desired) and a close network of writers who both mentored me and encouraged me to keep writing. I will never forget the intimacy of the workshop setting; my nights spent reading, writing, and editing in the lounge with friends; or the excitement in the writers’ eyes when they presented their first book, collection of poems, etc at the countless readings I attended.  While Temecula offers me family and a sense of anchoring, Iowa City gave me a place to write and to learn with other established or aspiring writers. In the fall, when I move 3,000 miles across the country for college, I’ll remember all these things, and I’ll know that the weird literary paradise that is Iowa City will be a home to me, forever.

—Meg Bernhard

Meg Bernhard graduated this past spring from Great Oak High School in Temecula, California, and attended Session 1 of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. This fall she’ll attend Harvard University.