Week Six’s poet-in-residence Mary McLaughlin Slechta to discuss retirement and writing life with Brown Bag lecture

During her Brown Bag lecture Tuesday, poet Mary McLaughlin Slechta will be talking about a topic some Chautauquans might have a vested interest in: retirement.

Slechta said she’ll offer some “practical and personal” advice in her lecture, titled “Transitioning to the Writing Life.”

Her Brown Bag will be at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

“I realize that not everyone wants to be an artist, not everyone is interested in that, but I want to talk about following your passion and finding out what that means — and how not to sabotage your best efforts at doing something you really love to do,” Slechta said.

Mary McLaughlin Slechta

Slechta is the poet-in-residence for Week Six at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. She is the author of the poetry collection Wreckage on a Watery Moon and has had her work featured in numerous journals, including Rattle. She also serves as an editor for publishing company Great Weather for Media.

After 30 years of teaching, Slechta retired in 2012. She said she kept writing the whole time she taught, but retirement gave her way more time to focus her energies on her craft. Slechta said she wants to use her experience to get people to think about “treasuring what they have” in terms of their passions.

Slechta said people shouldn’t give up on their passions just because they didn’t have time for those dreams when they were younger.

“I want to give some ways to re-enter that experience and find the trail of something that you’re passionate about, and how to go forward with that,” Slechta said.

Slechta said she’s revisited the past herself and found inspiration in it. She took a trip to Rome with her husband about 15 years ago, where she felt “overwhelmed” as an artist surrounded by so much art. She wrote a poem about the experience, and she said that the passing of 15 years gave her a new perspective on that trip.

“I’m still using and mining that material and still working on it,” Slechta said. “And I’m letting it be an instructive experience for me on how to mature into my work.”

And what about the problem of having too much time when one retires?

Slechta said when she first retired, she sometimes felt she had too much time on her hands. But she found and rediscovered passions — such as reading and editing new work — that keep things fun for her.

“Sometimes I wake up and feel like I could go and get another degree,” Slechta said. “I’m not going to do that, though.”

Slechta said she hopes that people come away from her Brown Bag thinking about three words that have become a personal mantra for her: time and patience.

“You have to give yourself time, and you have to be patient with yourself,” Slechta said. “I think it’s true for everything in life, but especially in artmaking.”

Tags : brown bagChautauqua Writers’ CenterJill GerardLiterary Arts Center at Alumni HallMary McLaughlin Slechtapoet-in-residenceTransitioning to the Writing LifeWeek six

The author Ryan Pait

Ryan Pait gets a different haircut every summer to keep the people of Chautauqua guessing. This is his fourth summer at The Chautauquan Daily, so if you’re tired of him, that’s OK. He recently graduated with his master’s degree in literature from Western Kentucky University. Don’t ask him about what he’s doing after this summer, but do ask him about the Nicole Kidman renaissance, the return of “Game of Thrones” and what he’s reading.