Here in BONI VA: Day 4

Day 4 is probably my most intensely scheduled day of the program!

AM:

I went down to breakfast fairly early. I was awake and dressed, so why not? One of *the* best parts of events like this, is the people. Don and the wonderful staff aside, I have thirty-some other writers of all sorts of genres, we’re all different ages, experiences, from different places. I sat down at the table Jim Todd and Terry Johnson were at, and dear me. Some people are great at writing stories and others are able to tell them aloud, too. That would be these two! The stories! The whole table was crying with laughter. Who knew you could laugh so uproariously at such an early hour? Tales of chasing a bear who stole your Smarties at 6am through the forest. Naked. With a chainsaw. Being trapped in a stall in the women’s room because you thought it was the men’s (damn Sudafed!), covering your dress shoes with you coat while you wait for a chance to run. What a wonderful way to start the day!

In class, Don dragged us through our homework assignment, which led to a tangential conversation about us, essentially, being chickens, lol. We worry so much about craft and voice and plotting and pacing and… You get the idea. That we forget or ignore or avoid writing the real meat of the story. Which often times means digging into ourselves. There have been jokes all week long about writing being therapy, but in a lot of ways it is very true. We are allowed, through these characters, this situation, this place and time we created, to ask ourselves- and our readers- questions we would otherwise be too afraid or scared or :insert your own emotion: to ponder and explore.

Then it was on to plotting. And going deeper into plotting layers. And how did that all tie to your characters and the settings? Where do they overlap? What’s going on with their family? The larger world? Life is never about one plot line, right?
Though we try to make our own lives like that while we are here 🙂
Job? Family? Real life? What are those??

By the time we made it through that, we were all cotton-headed just in time for lunch.

PM:

Two consults today before critique groups after dinner, oh my!

Lorin: I had a great time talking to her about my pages. She helped me pin some points where I could take motivation further- deeper. I was so focused on hooking while avoiding info dumps that I cut myself a little short. But like any time you show your pages to another soul, I walked alway finding that my story still had value and worth. She liked all the potential on the pages. She even seemed a little sad to have not gotten to see any smut yet, lol. I blame that on the “bed” paragraph I read in workshop last night  -_^  May have made a little reputation for myself there, ha!

Jason:  Jason is the first guy to see these pages. Something that turned out to be really cool because he saw different things. He was extremely talented at brainstorming ideas to help edit the scene. Between my session with Lorin and my time with Jason, I was working on the edits Lorin suggested. But some of them I just couldn’t pin, and I still had an edit from critique group I couldn’t make work. But Jason being Jason, and a guy, he pointed to a spot and said a few things and the necessary edit was right there, staring at me. It was brilliant and everything I needed by that point! He also helped me think about my genre, something I’ve been stumbling over for awhile. This story really doesn’t want a box.

LoraLee came by my room after that. She had a great meeting with Don and then our conversation spread into all things sex and psychological. Repressed sexuality, hyper sexuality, sexual abuse, celibacy. There’s something very freeing about being around other writers.  Judgement (for the most part) turns off and it’s an exchange of information and experience.

Don sat at my table for dinner again. This time it was a smaller table and he sat right across from me. I think I avoided saying anything totally stupid. He adopted his son, my husband was adopted, the other people at our table we close to people who were adopted, so we talked about those psychological challenges for awhile. We discussed the energy situation/crisis . I asked him how he liked living in Brooklyn compared to the Village. I spread my love for the music and videos of the Piano Guys. I have my consultation with him tomorrow, so I suppose it was good to finally have a little social face time with him first. I have a few too many stars in my eyes not to be insanely nervous.

We were suppose to have critique groups again tonight but dinner went late and it devolved in the end to going to bed for some and simply chatting for others. Gretchen, Ruth Jones, and I talked for quite awhile in the restaurant about experiences with writing and trying to grow in our craft. Back at the dorm our rooms, Ruth and I traded stories and talked awhile longer. It’s so interesting hearing about all the different things people have learned, discovered, and tried out. Would I ever submit to a periodical? I’d never pondered that before.

Two themes have really emerged at this point for me. Everyone is different. Between Brenda, Lorin, and Jason you can see that. And it applies to every editor, agent, or person you share you writing with. Even when we talk about “great writing” there are people who aren’t going to like it because it’s just not their thing. But even more important? It’s one word that sets the “successful” author/writer apart from the dreamers.

Perseverance.

Last week Sarah Callender wrote on Writer Unboxed on the subject of vulnerability. JK Rowling was rejected twelve times by editors with Harry Potter. Sarah’s friend Clara is at forty. And counting. Pushing the desire to type that damned Thomas Edison and the lightbulb anecdote aside, you just have to keep going. It only takes one. It’s only when you stop believing that an idea becomes impossible.

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