A day packed with Donald. It’s like visiting Mount Olympus.
I think we were all a bit zombified this morning. Breakfast sort of rolled by. I just remember there were pancakes today. (I told you the food was good- well the buffets at least.) For my part, I’m blaming The Babysitters Club across the hall last night. We’re all having tons of fun, but people in my hallway kept me up last night with their giggles 😦 Before class, LoraLee and I walked the garden a couple times, talking about the journey to publication. We always get so deep, I think it goes a little too personal for blogging, sorry guys!
Don had to prod us at the beginning of class out of our “wait this is day five?” haze. The homework scene I think was less fun for us on the whole for day four and we were a little less satisfied with what came out. We had two options and I wrote the ‘kill someone’ option. It was okay, but I knew it could be better. Which was totally accurate because I worked on it as part of class and haha, look at that, I made it better.
Today’s workshop was scene structures. We used a set of questions and the idea of mentally ‘filming’ the scene so you could speed it up, slow it down, change the focus. We applied to a ‘blah’ scene in our novel to help us actually rework it. (Tonight’s homework: rewrite the scene from those pieces without looking at the old version) Again, I’m just happy that the universe sat me next to Joy that first day, who showed me the audio recording setup in Word for Mac. You can look at notes or re-read a book, but that I can replay any part or all of these lectures and hear Don, the Writer Whisperer, take me back to that place as I work on truly learning these techniques is making this experience even more priceless.
At lunch, three of the four girls at our table were meeting Don for their consultations- me included, during the afternoon. So lunch mostly consisted of us being nervous wrecks.
I had a little time after I finished eating to breathe and try to soothe myself before my consult. I wasn’t worried so much about Don. He wasn’t going to be cruel even if he had less than positive news for me. It was about my pages. First, some pieces second, drafts of my manuscript. My sad little attempt at a synopsis. That’s all he had to look at, but it was my heart on those pages, draft one or draft fifty one. Coming to BONI was kind of a dare I made with myself. So what, you’ve written fanfiction for a few years, that can’t/doesn’t mean you can *really* write, that these words, your stories, have any sort of value. (No matter what my stats and reviews for fanfiction show me- fanfiction doesn’t count in the *real* world. It’s easier to believe bad things, right?) But sitting in workshop here, talking with these fellow authors, and these four consults. They would expose how real this is (or not). Yes, getting published is largely about perseverance. But to persevere, you have to believe. And heaven knows my therapist will tell you that is a problem I have- believing in the things I want for myself. But like LoraLee pointed out, this matters. That’s why I’m here, to see and feel that reality, to share this story I have in my heart, and to look in the mirror and know it, and indirectly me, have value. So yeah, no pressure, Don -_^
I haven’t re-listened to the recording I made. A little nervous to find out maybe I mis-heard something or my impression was off, because it wasn’t that good- right? Right?? No, it wasn’t THE dream. I’m the undiscovered voice of a generation and please, let me represent you. lol, as if! I’m self-depricating, not deluded 🙂 But he didn’t tell me to trash the opening (an honest concern after day two), he found the premise interesting, unique even, and he asked me to talk about what I wanted it to be. Thankfully after talking with Jason about the genre challenge, I was able to state that desire well to Don and it was a positive response. Don, like Brenda, Lorin, and Jason before him, pinned the same pieces I’d been chipping at all week. But he’s Don. So he pulled that thread, spun it out, and wove it even finer then anyone else could. All in a few minutes. And you sit there like a wide-eyed bobble head because he pulled the essence of your character out and laid it right in front of you.
By the end, I somehow managed to walk back to my building, only pausing a few feet away to lean against the column of the overhang and have my “Oh. My. God.” moment. Because he didn’t trash any of it. Not a negative word. Just agreement with, and repairs, to parts I was already unsatisfied with. And the story idea isn’t crap, or contrived, and he said the writing was good. Holy crap. What is my life? Sylvia Musgrove, my Apple charger savior found me. I imagine I looked a little something like this- just add in my little BCBG devil horn headband:
Then I went and found LoraLee, collapsing on her bed as I still failed to process everything. Eventually the magic of LoraLee and me in a room together led to a discussion on religion, suicide, neglect, and the viewing of a Piano Guys video. Then she went to her 5pm consult. She came by my room after, and even Elizabeth Gibson wandered by, who also had a successful Donald encounter. She had a full manuscript, so that was a massive accomplishment.
The night continued in its exponential rise towards “best day ever”. Great buffet dinner tonight (omg, corn bread), I talked to Jason while in line for the buffet a bit. Then, there was Don, at our table again. And…I spoke! I contributed to discussing education, creativity, the value of experience and art, preserving nature, and always, the human experience. I also got to brag about my mad karaoke skills (but only in Japanese, ha!). Mizuno miyako no….
The evening lecture was on micro-tension. I’d heard some of this in January, but we spent time workshopping, as a group, part of someone’s story, to increase the given example of tension. Three types: dialogue, action, exposition. We did okay with dialogue, got super super rowdy with the action example- oh, the jokes we were cracking! Exposition was hard, and we did two examples, but it was a fight. But at the end, Don gave a great pep talk about how if you spend the time to develop it, it gets easier, and becomes more intuitive.
Did my night end there? Nope. That little exponential curve was determined to go off my sheet of graph paper. My husband was returning home from the West coast today and was having drama with his flight and connecting flight, so I hopped on the phone at the end of class and just stayed in the hallway for the call. By the time I’m done, lo and behold, Don is heading down the stairs. “Do it. Do iiitttttt.” That little voice in my head eggs me on.
I’m chairing my local RWA conference next year and my co-planner said, “ASK HIM FOR SUGGESTIONS” (Yes in all caps. And bold, too, I think) because our keynote search has not been quite so easy as we had hoped. So here I redirect you to that .gif above and ask, “Me? Talk to him, socially, one on one?” Oh dear God. But I asked, and he said he was going to grab a drink at the bar and invited me to join him. So I spent a good hour, having a drink, conversing easily, with this person I massively admire. He gave me a few great suggestions for possible keynotes and then we talked about my ‘real world’ work, history, England and Europe, New York City, and even my fanfiction a little. I really liked getting to tell him my “actualization” story about this trip and being here. Probably about six or so months ago I painted a pipe dream for myself. In this perfect, idealized future, I’m going to go to this conference in Virginia Beach and study with Donald Maass. I’m going to have a new little MacBook Air and I’m even going to have this insane Coach bag I want. I’m going to walk in there, and that’s who I’m going to be.
She types from her room in Virginia Beach, on her MacBook Air, with her pretty little Coach bag lying next to her, after a day packed full of interactions with Donald Maass.
If you don’t dare yourself to imagine it can be real, then how can you dare the universe to help you make it happen?