Day five, the final day, is in the books down here at the Chesapeake Writers Conference.
Kids and Food
The boys were present at lunch, dressed in their khakis, blue shirts, and ties. Highly presentable, very tasteful. As usual, they sung at dinner. I’m glad I was sitting in the back, since the baritones were back there again. I always enjoy hearing the baritone and bass parts in choral music.
I haven’t mentioned what I’ve been eating during these forays into the dining hall, but at dinner, I had tilapia and a couple of burgers. I was the only person at the table not eating any salad, but I’ll be certainly doing so once I’m outta here. I have not kept keto this week, but I’ve done my best to go crazy on protein. When I get back home, I’ll add the fats back in, the coconut and MCT oil. I’ll be on track again quickly.
Angela gave an awesome talk this morning with tips on revising your work. Some of them like reading your work out loud and taking some time away from your first draft, were things I’d heard before.
But things like cutting the word “feel” from your writing, was one I hadn’t heard and I thought about it, it made perfect sense. Show how your character feels through description and verbs. You don’t have to say how your character feels.
Also, her tip on cliche ideas was well worth the price of admission (LOL). Write towards something other than a resolution that everything is okay. She talked about the inner plot and the physical plot and all the lovely things I like about drama (we just use slightly different terms for the same thing; I use Richard Toscan’s terms “emotional plot” and “suspense plot”. I’m a playwright).
She also talked about removing parentheticals (which I obviously love) as well as clauses inside of dashes –I love those, too–. I consider myself a dashmaster. I’ll go into the kitchen and get a canister of Mrs. Dash and sprinkle it in my notebook. I love dashes. It’s going to be hard to wean myself off of them.
Great way to end a week of craft talks.
Today was my essay’s day to be workshopped. I submitted a lyric essay. Without going into everything that was said –because I took several pages of notes I haven’t transcribed and don’t plan to post them anyway– the process was one of the best workshop processes I’ve ever been inside of.
One of the issues I’ve had with workshops is people stating their critiques with the proviso, “if I were writing this.” I hate that. You’re not writing this. I’m writing this. I’m not interested in where you would take the story because it’s my story and I’m interested in where you think I should take it, given what you see and where I might think I want to take it.
And what I got in this workshop was exactly what I wanted — people’s thoughts on what they read and where they thought I could take it to make it better. And most of my fellow participants’ comments were right on the money. I’d originally written the story during my Creative Nonfiction online class and I was on very strict word limits. The essay ended up being quite bare, even as far as lyric essays go, but Angela and my fellow participants gave me some great ideas for how to flesh it out and make it into something more full, especially now that I’m not on any particular word limit.
One question I did have was this: in terms of narrative structure, I thought the lyric essay eschewed the normal structure. However, we did discuss the essay in those terms. However, Angela made the point that instead of following a strict arc, what might be desirable is to increase in detail so that the reader gets a broader view of what’s being discussed (and in terms of this essay, hopefully a raison d’etre). That’s something I’ve had issues with in my own lyric essay practice, so I’m grateful to have a specific answer from someone who is practicing the form professionally right now.
Instead of straight lecture, Matt Hall sang some songs, read us a children’s book he wrote, and gave us a presentation on Dada. Since he mentioned the Neo-Dadaists, I told him I wish he’d do John Cage’s 4’33”; he told me he’d thought about it, but didn’t have the time.
Patricia Henley read from one of her stories. I wish maybe she’d had a few folks read from her play. I know we were here for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, but Matt Hall was up there singing songs. Why couldn’t have had a few pages or perhaps a whole scene of a play read?
Other good stuff …
Since craft talk started at 10:30, I had time to sleep in and write morning pages. I got some breakfast then sat outside of the Daily Grind and wrote several pages longhand. Yes.
I’ve been typing all my freewrites and with all the typing for these blog posts, it felt good to get back to handwriting my thoughts and not just taking notes.
As I was walking very slowly on the path towards the dining hall for dinner, one of the student staff members working for the reunion stopped her Cub Cadet next to me on the path and asked me nicely if I was looking for something.
Normally, my reaction to such a question is to get ornery because hell, I paid my money to be here like everybody else. However, I told her I wasn’t looking for anything, but I would take a ride the rest of the way to the dining hall if she was going in that direction. She was.
Too bad she wasn’t going back and forth when we came out of lecture.
My co-participant’s 7 month old was in the dining hall at dinner. On the way to lecture, I took off my hat and showed it to him and asked him if he could say “Orioles.” He looked and grinned at the Oriole bird. Another converted, confirmed, passionate O’s fan. And while mommy was wearing a Nationals shirt. Sweet.
Not so good stuff …
During workshop, one of the participants, who’s also been acting as a student staff member, received a call from the conference director, looking for me. I’d been parked outside of DPC and the events staff was upset that a car was blocking the area behind the townhouses. They were trying to unload items needed for the setup for this evening’s concert on the townhouse greens.
I wasn’t back there, but he asked me to move anyway. I go over to DPC and there are eight other cars over there, a few of which weren’t even inside of parking spots like I was. I figured it was some personal bullshit and just moved it because I wanted to get back to workshop and didn’t feel dealing with anybody who might have had some static.
I noticed that there was indeed a car parked directly behind the townhouses.
By the time I’d gotten back within sight of the building, I noticed that somebody had indeed parked in the spot that I’d just vacated and none of the other cars had moved. I noticed the car behind the townhouses was still there.
I went back to workshop and cooled off, both inside and out. Then I finally got the email about the car that they were looking for and a text that it wasn’t me they needed to move. Right.
After workshop, the same car blocking the rear of the townhouses was still there. A couple of spaces on the side of DPC had opened up, though. So I put my bags in the flat and walk up to Lot R to get the car and put it back on the side of DPC.
However, Public Safety was blocking the road going back directly to DPC and were guiding people to Lot R to park for the concert. One lady tried talking to the officers for several minutes and she got turned away.
I thought about going the other way around campus, but I didn’t know whether Public Safety would let me back on campus on the other side of DPC and if not, whether my good parking space where I was would be there. I let discretion win instead of emotion and just left the car there. It was a good spot and with people arriving for a reunion as well as some Boy Scout thing I saw signs for, leaving it right there was the better play. In the morning, I’ll just walk up and get it and put it right behind the townhouses to load up.
I hope it’s not this complicated every year.
Now that it’s over …
I don’t want it to be. A few of us walking up the path from dinner agreed on this feeling. All of us would love to be able to wake up, write, learn about writing, write some more, etc. on a daily basis. This was a wonderful week and I do not want to go back home. I told our HR director at work I probably wouldn’t want to and I don’t. Tomorrow, I want to wake up, write morning pages, find some food, do more writing, go to a lecture, something. I don’t want to get back on the road and leave this place, doing these things. It’s probably going to take me some time to get back into my usual routine, such is the momentum that I built up here, momentum that I don’t want to lose.
I’m so tired right now, but it’s that good tired. That tired when you not only know you worked hard, but you worked towards something that you really wanted. Accomplished something. I don’t know, though, if I’ll sleep well because I’m tired or if I’ll be excited and sleep fitfully because I’m so ready to get back up and write again.
I think I’m going to keep waking up at 6:30 daily and write, but I’m going to work on my projects much more than I do and not rely on that after-work time to complete them, as that hasn’t been working the best for me.
Now that I have some better pointers for revision, I’m going to revise some old projects (perhaps I’ll reserve the evenings for blogging and revision) because I see now that I have to get more work out there, including a book. It’s a goal I’ve been working towards, but now I need to go even harder.
These are my initial thoughts on the week now that it’s over, but I’ll still be writing a full postmortem, which I’ll begin on Saturday at some point.