At the end of a long conference day, a bunch of us met at a restaurant for a leisurely meal and plunged almost immediately into a ridiculous conversation. That’s the magic of conference meals: you gather a bunch of interesting folks around a table, and then just see what conversations happen.
As the men at the table were exchanging witty insults, Maine Writer kicked me under the table. She gave me a knowing glance. “Isn’t it time we got a man to pose for you?”
Since all the men at the table were nature writers, I figured it would be pretty easy to get a volunteer for the naked photo project. I mean, nature writers! They skinny dip all the time. They’re hippies who love to cavort naked. Every stereotype suggested I’d have more models than I knew what to do with.
Really, the prospects looked good. The novelist at the table wrote a book about a decorative hermit: his main character is NAKED for a good half of the book. The memoirist wrote a book about fatherhood with a whole section about how his son who didn’t like to wear clothes. The cartoonist-turned-nature-writer, who kept telling funny stories and then apologizing for talking too much, has published essays about peeing in public. Yes, he’s written MORE THAN ONCE about peeing in public.
Surely someone in this group would pose, I thought. I looked over at Maine Writer and smiled confidently. But Cartoonist-Turned-Nature-Writer found the loophole. “I might need another drink,” he said. That’s when I looked at the glasses at the table and sighed, caught by one of my own rules. It’s rule number eight: I won’t photograph anyone if they’ve been drinking.
Just at that moment, a text message chimed in, and Maine Writer looked at her phone. Another of our friends had been at an event where he was reading from his latest book. He was coming over to meet us — and thanks to the reading — he hadn’t had anything to drink.
“Perfect,” I said. “He can be the Designated Nature Writer.” The men at the table visibly relaxed when they realized they were off the hook.
“We’ll all come along for the photo shoot,” said Cartoonist-Turned-Nature-Writer. “We want to be supportive.”
Soon the whole group were happily agreeing to come up to my hotel room for the naked photo shoot. “Um, it’s not really a spectator sport,” I kept saying, a bit puzzled by this turn of events.
We returned to the conference hotel, which was teeming with writers who filled the bar and spilled into the lobby, providing a nice distraction. As soon as the Designated Nature Writer arrived, Maine Writer quietly explained to him he was to pose naked for me. Her charm must have won him over because surprisingly, he agreed right away. Leaving behind the gang of spectators, we whisked him up to our room where he obligingly took off his clothes, sat on the bed, and let me snap his photo.
Read more about the history of the naked blogging project and check out the gallery of photos.