Saturday, June 26, 2010

All Twenty Boxes--No More and No Less

I was reading through some of my old writing journal entries, and I found this quote from Carolyn Chute [quoted in Bird by Bird] which says,

“I feel like a lot of time my writing is like having about twenty boxes of Christmas decorations. But no tree. You’re going, Where do I put this? Then they go, Okay, you can have a tree, but we’ll blindfold you and you gotta cut it down with a spoon.”

Can anyone else relate to that? I have all those boxes. Some of the decorations are dusty and I can't see them completely clearly, but they're definitely there. My tree? I have it in my possession--except it's a put-it-together-yourself-piece-by-piece fake tree. I've got the bottom up in a stand, and I've actually already started decorating it. I have the top of it all fluffed out and ready for ornaments, but all those fiddly bits in the middle still call for me to sit down and work them out one by one. I can see them all there, laying haphazardly on the floor. But I don't know what order they need to go in and how big each piece will be when I put it on the tree.

Since I'm participating in JulyWriMo (copyright Megan), I guess that will all work out soon. The goal is to write--write! I'll inevitably count some of my research I'm bound to go back and do and my character journals as writing. In fact, I'll probably painstakingly number my words so I can legally reach my count, but I do need to focus on free writing. And by free writing I mean writing creatively, binding those middle parts together and making a complete, freestanding tree.

Have I taken this metaphor too far? I feel like I can smell plastic pine needles and dusty tree toppers, so I'll take that as a yes and stop for now.

What does your tree look like?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Yes, Chababaland is a Real Place

So I fell behind in my writing yesterday--both blog-wise and in general. Did I do something productive in its place? Well, I unlocked all the meals in Cooking Mama. I know--I'm terrible. I'm not sure I'll get any writing done today either. Why? Both my parents are off today, and they're going to be dragging me all over chababaland.

I just got done grocery shopping in 80-something degree weather at nine in the morning. That's just ungodly. The heat pricklies have started to go away as I sit under a blasting air conditioning vent, and I don't want to leave my icy sanctuary. However, duty calls.

Writing advice for today? Just do it. Even if it's for five minutes. I'll take my own advice too--I promise, at least five minutes of writing today at the bare minimum.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Each Laser Is Stupidly Powerful

I finally exhausted all my notes from Glen Eyrie, so you're safe from extremely long posts for now. I think.

I've been trying to find balance between reading and writing. I'm in the middle of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury right now. Aside from being a great (if ridiculously confusing) book, it's a requirement for my Literary Traditions class in the fall. I decided that I should read the books on the list for that class I hadn't yet read this summer so I could be prepared. I'm glad I chose to read this one before the fall. It's taking quite a bit of effort, even though I'm enjoying it.

I keep getting caught up in whatever I'm doing though. If I start reading, I don't stop until some pressing need arises. That means I've most likely overstepped my time frame and wasted some precious writing time. Now I know you've got one burning question in your mind--"You're not working right now; what do you mean you don't have time to write?!"

I'm glad you asked. What else is taking up my time? Well, there are the run of the mill excuses: laundry, cleaning, cooking, showering, taking care of the dog, etc. What I should really tell you is that there's a stupid flash game I've been playing mindlessly. It's called Super Bloons Monkey, and for whatever reason I'm hooked. Today I'm taking a Bloons moratorium so I can really focus. Just watch--as soon as I sit down to do some research and outlining, someone will text or call me. I love how life happens in such inconvenient bursts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Setting with Nancy

Last Workshop with Nancy at Glen Eyrie

Setting is an often neglected character in a story—it can bring the reader into the environment.

The setting needs to breathe as much as the characters do.

Is your protagonist living in the wrong place? It’s part of the story! Their relationship with the setting can grow and change.

Never let the setting be generic! Unless you have a very specific reason. Don’t be afraid of descriptive passages! Weave it into the story.

EXERCISE:
What is the specific setting for your story overall?
Is this setting your protagonist’s ally or antagonist?
It is your job to make sure the reader knows that relationship.

Write a quick paragraph in which your main character expresses his/her feelings about the place (can be to you):
[Insert paragraph here]

DONALD MOSS WORKBOOK (recommendation) (After the first draft!)

Find one symbol, inherent in the place that could point to the answer to the question. (What might you put on the cover of the book?)

Write a paragraph where the protagonist comes upon that symbol the first time:
[Insert paragraph here]
Make little copious details about the places you go. Don’t think that you’re not making progress if you’re not increasing your word count. Specificity and details and preparation are work!

Get some of the experience on you! “You don’t know what you don’t know unless you go there”

Principles of setting a la Angie:

Heighten the tension by putting the characters in a setting they can’t escape them.
Make sure the story couldn’t take place anywhere else.
Remind the reader of the setting at least once in every chapter. Make it subtle, but keep the reader anchored.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Characters with Nancy

Workshop from 6/8/10

“Our scriptures have an aversion to abstractions of any kind and prefer to use stories and metaphors to keep us involved and participating in what is right before us.” – Eugene Peterson

Harry Bosch crime novels (recommendation from Nancy)

Truths must be felt in some way! Characters must experience the truths and feel them. Don’t make things melodramatic with pure sentiment.

For the reader to be able to feel what the character feels, they have to relate to and understand the character. AND the author has to as well.

HERE’S ONE APPROACH TO CHARACTER PLANNING

Protagonist: the best vehicle for answering your theme question

Name:
Age:
Gender:
Unique physical characteristics:
Personality traits that make him/her the best vehicle:
Background – what’s made your character the way he/she is?
Most important relationships:
His/her goal in the story/what drives him/her:
His/her hidden need in the story:

Antagonist: the best vehicle for getting in the protagonist’s way
(same breakdown)

Protagonist’s Allies: who will provide him with support?
(same breakdown)

Antagonist’s Allies: who will help her get in the way?
(same breakdown)

You can have a journal for each protagonist where you can write to them and they can write to you. (This may seem extremely weird at first, but just try it!)

Rules for characters:
1. You have to make them suffer.
2. You have to allow their attempts to reach their goal to fail, at least sometime.
3. You have to get them to a place of no return. (Bleakest moment)
4. Have your protagonist question the assumptions they had at the beginning of the story.
5. You have to give them qualities that sometimes serve them well and sometimes don’t. They can’t be perfect. You don’t have to have your antagonist turn out perfect
6. You have to provide them with tension on every page. TENSION.

Donald Moss literary agent in New York – Writing Your Breakout Novel (get the workbook!!)

No back story in the first thirty pages! Trust the reader to move along.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Good Thoughts About Writing on a Sunday

Sorry about my lack of posting yesterday. I spent Friday afternoon through Saturday night out living life, seeing concerts, hanging with friends, and soaking in the whole anime experience at Tokyo in Tulsa. But, I'm back! And I have a good chunk of info for you all. It's from Nancy's individual workshop at the conference. These are my notes from the first day.

Relationships with Nancy 6/7/10

Psalm 45 (Message) “My heart bursts its banks, spilling beauty and goodness. I pour it out in a poem to the king, shaping the river into words.”

Finding the core of what you’re working on

Eugene Peterson Christ Plays in 10,000 Places “Story is the most natural way of enlarging and deepening our sense of reality, and then enlisting us as participants in it. Stories open doors to areas or aspects of life that we didn’t know were there, or had quit noticing out of over-familiarity, or supposed were out-of-bounds to us.”

Christ rarely interpreted his stories. He only explained that to his disciples—stories speak for themselves.

Book – Love Walked In (recommendation, novel)

Consider your story:
Is it enlarging and deepening someone’s sense of reality?
Are you enlisting other people to participate in it?
Is your story going to open doors to aspects of life that your readers may not know were there?Are you reminding people of the importance of some facet of life? (Ex. Hook)
Are you showing them they can understand things they thought they were beyond them?
Are you welcoming someone in and giving them a sense of home?

How to do these things:

Don’t think that you have to know exactly how to finish it and how you’re going to ensure its success. There is no guarantee of “success.” There is a guarantee it will not be successful if you don’t commit to it completely.

What a Christian novel is:

1. Christian elements can be overtly spoken, covertly alluded to, or it may never be mentioned at all. BUT it must be inherent to the story. You need to make sure your story wouldn’t work without it.

“Preach the gospel always. Use words if necessary.” – St. Francis of Assisi

It can’t be plastered on—it has to be woven in.

Psalm 16:2 “I say to God, ‘nothing without You makes sense.’”

It needs to show Christianity in people’s lives as it is, not as we wish it would be. How much banana are you going to put in your pie? Because it needs to be a banana pie.

2. It should provide a mirror for readers to identify with characters.

3. It should entertain as well as to edify. It’s a story. Make them cry, make them laugh!
Nancy’s own advice—it should be a book that people want to OWN. I want the story to be a place where my readers wish they lived.

Sunflower seed

The big, beautiful sunflower you want to create has to start as a seed.
One word that captures what you’re trying to say in your novel:

Examples: Equality, justice, family, hope, etc.

“What if” question:

Ex: What if something wrong is so widely accepted it becomes normality and combat seems impossible?

What do you think is the answer?

[Insert answer to your question here.]

Write a paragraph in which you briefly tell how your protagonist can come to the answer.

[Insert paragraph here.]

The closer you get to the truth, the more you want to resist it. (from Nancy)

There is freedom in limitation. Don’t be looking at other things than what God intends for you to be looking at. Don’t be like an Irish Setter!

Book of Common Prayer - Send us out to do the work you intended for us to do with gladness in our heart.

Have a verse of Scripture that underlines your question and answer.

Name of protagonist:
Obvious need as it appears at the beginning:
Protagonist’s hidden need:

“Plot is what happens. Story is what it does to the person it happens to. Plot is the motion. Story is the emotion. Plot is the outer journey. Story is the inner journey. Plot is the road it takes to get there. Story is the path to the truth.”

Inciting incident (22 minutes into the movie):
(If it’s in the first chapter, that’s not where it belongs.) You have to make the readers care about the characters. Inciting incident needs to be a quarter of the way in. (Fantasy can be a little different. See what works!) Keep the reader moving forward.

What goal is produced for protagonist through inciting incident?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jim's Address and a Short Summation of My Struggles

James Scott Bell - Recharge

Process

1. Inspiration – John Gardner “The good artists are the people who are creating out of deep and honest concern . . .” The wallowing world needs writers with a vision. They don’t need more “pooping bear material.” “Great art makes you homesick for heaven.”

2. Imagination – Allow it to run free—don’t edit yourself as you write. “The Greatest Story Ever Told” John Wayne centurion. “Awe, surely this is . . .” Give your mind free reign—write stuff anyway.

3. Intention – be intentional about learning the craft. Do things with excellence.

4. Instruction – Seek out books and teachers. Otherwise you might end up with clunky writing. “He was as tall as a six foot tree.” Take your writing to the next level.

5. Implementation – Take what you learn and put it into action. Make yourself finish. Set a quota for yourself. If you have trouble with a daily one, set a weekly quota. If you miss a day here or there, you can make it up later. “Go after it with a club” – Jack London. Take a writing Sabbath once a week.

6. Irrigation – Fresh watering that you need to sustain yourself—Holy Spirit—nurture your spiritual life. A. W. Toser “Natural gifts and talents are not enough in God’s work. The mighty spirit of God . . .” Holy Spirit = chief energizer. When you get rejections, they could have been a blown call. Instead of getting mad, allow it to hurt for fifteen minutes and no more.

7. Impatience – Be prepared to wait. Priorities can be a hazard. Don’t sacrifice other things to the writing dream.

8. Envy – Be ready! It sneaks up. Go to the Lord with it. (R.A. Torrey) Keep in step with the Spirit. Movie—The Hustler (with Paul Newman) – example of a story that isn’t done with spiritual terms BUT still reaches people.

*End of Address*

I have just agreed to do NaNoWriMo in July. Yeah. It's my first time, and my brain may be sizzling by the end of the month, but I think this is necessary for me. I wasn't too sure, but I was praying about it last night and I kept bargaining with God to get out of doing it. I could tell He wasn't amused. So, I asked him for grace to get through it, and the mood lightened. God can do amazing things in my life. I just need to be cooperative.

Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo next month?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

An Excerpt from Kathy Mackel's Keynote Address

Rebirth

Writers are always pregnant with ideas. But no one says to you, “Congratulations! You’re with story!”
Conception—when you commit time and energy
Stretching—having to go further and deeper

Isaiah 26:17-18 – "As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth, she writhes and cries out in her labor pains, thus we were before you, O Lord. We were pregnant, we writhed in labor, we gave birth, as it seems, only to wind. We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth, nor were inhabitants of the world born."

Make sure that your writing gives birth to more than wind. How disappointing would that be? To work on something for so long, but since you didn't do it for God it amounts to nothing?

At some point, those faithful to God will meet God in their writing.

Not everything we write will see the light of day, but everything will see the light of life.

You might have to go back and re-birth it.

Ezekiel 37:1-10 (Valley of dry bones)
- what God is asking of you
- be born again as a writer
- re-birth each other!

Will you surrender to love?

*End Keynote Address*

That part about giving birth to wind--yeah, that's when I started bawling. It's something I worry about a lot. What am I doing all this for? I think I'm listening to God and letting him lead me through my writing, but what if it's just me? Writing for the Lord is a heavy responsibility, which is why you might need to rebirth your story to make sure it produces more than just wind. Rebirth each other. Renew, refresh, rebirth, recharge. Be reinspired!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Cannot Control My Book Lust

I fully intended on getting someone a present (in which I succeeded). I did not intend on buying (new) books for myself, but I succeeded in that anyway. Oh well. They were on sale. That excuses me right? Right? Fine.

I got quite a bit further in my outline yesterday. Instead of ploughing on writing and writing, I decided to outline what I already had so I could continue on outlining the middle bits I need. (I have the ending. Mostly.)

To help the rest of you, as well as myself, with the writing process here are 10 characteristics of a good writer according to James Scott Bell:

1. Desire—It has to come from you. You have to be willing to sacrifice.
2. Discipline—You have to find a way to produce the words (a minimum on a regular basis)
3. Commitment to the craft
4. Patience
5. Honesty
6. Willingness to learn
7. Business-like attitude
8. Rhino skin—Rejection of your work is not a rejection of you unless it is accompanied by a punch on the nose.
9. Take the long-term view
10. Talent (& discipline)

I really need to keep these in mind and try to embody them in my work. Especially number two. I have to keep at it. Just keep swimming . . .

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Notes from Angie Hunt's Keynote Address at Glen Eyrie

Rather than trying to sum up what I learned in each lesson, I figured I might as well just give you my notes. I wish I had a taken a tape recorder so I could put down verbatim what I heard. I can't describe the feelings and nuances of each session, but I wish I could. I also cannot read my own sloppy handwriting sometimes. There is a sentence in my notes that looks like, "Sonutinus can't place crucial message until 3rd or 4th draft." Yeah, I don't know what that's supposed to be. But the rest of it is pretty straightforward I think. More notes from the conference to come in the future. Enjoy!

“You must write. You must finish what you write.” – Robert Heinlein

6/7 Angie Hunt

“Praise the Lord and stay at the computer.”

Fiction is a microcosm of the world. If it presents a false version of truth, it cheats the reader. It’s lying propaganda.

Re-inspire

What inspires you? “The mortgage.” What inspires your ideas, hard work, to keep going?

Proverbs 3:4-5 “Trust the Lord with all your heart . . .” Pads are made for walking. Lean not on your own understanding, but still use it. Do what you think is sensible and logical—then let God direct your path. Don’t whine about it—be grateful. Conventional wisdom isn’t for you. Success is God’s doing, not yours.

Colossians 3 “Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative . . .”

Our work is an offering to the Lord. That’s why we polish! Focus on offering a worthy sacrifice.

“Excellence is the place where precision meets passion.” – Pastor Derrick

2 Samuel 24 “I cannot offer to the Lord that which cost me nothing.”

Don’t send manuscripts prematurely.

Start walking! Prove yourself a good steward! When God gives you a small thing, he isn’t doing it to see if you can. He’s doing it so you can see that you can. You are and always will be in the middle. There are always writers less talented than you and some more talented. Keep a healthy perspective.

God is waiting to see what you do with what you’ve been given. Beware of eternal consequences. Write as though your piece is bought, paid for, and distributed. Think of the brothers and sisters you can encourage. Don’t look for shortcuts. Write an irresistible story until you find an editor that agrees. Getting you foot in the door is hard; keeping it there is harder.

Avoid being distracted by illustrious offers asking you to work for the praise of men. We have to see ourselves as ministers to an unseen audience months down the road. Know what springs from self and what springs from spirit. Write wholeheartedly! Give the Creator praise! When we wield words, we reflect God’s image and creative drive. We’re driven to show the greatest truth to the world. Don’t put yourself under a lot of pressure. Laugh, learn, have fun, laugh when you need to. Strive for excellence, support brothers and sisters.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Icky Thump


I heard a noise earlier tonight, and when I went to see what it was, I found a tree frog attached to the window by the door. It was a nice little surprise. :)


So, I got back into town today. It's nice to be home, but I miss Colorado, my family, Glen Eyrie, and the amazing scenery. When the flight got into Tulsa, the flight attendant noted that, "It's hot. It's muggy. It's hot and muggy." I'm glad she didn't give an exact temperature, otherwise I would have been tempted to stow away on the plane. It was about 95 degrees outside. I don't even want to consider the humidity.


I'm unpacked, laundry is on its way, and I'm uploading my photos to Facebook in batches. Apparently it doesn't like my uploading things in bulk. Oh well, it will cope.


I keep waking up with the theme song in my head. It might be annoyingly catchy, but it's a nice reminder of last week and all that went on. It was easily the best week of my life. I got closer to God, learned some amazing things, met some fantastic people, and spent some time both relaxing and going non-stop having endless fun. Side note--Cooking Mama for Wii is on my birthday list now. My bday is June 28th, so you still have time. ;P

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Reinspired

This place is something special. I'm not talking about the castle or the scenic views and wildlife or any of that. There is a peace here and such a blessing that I cannot even begin to know how to describe it properly. I haven't posted in a bit because I've been taking everything in. And I mean everything. The writing workshops, the fellowship, everything. And everything God has been intending to say to me.

I would love for my mom to have come with me and experienced this, but being alone out here has given God a chance to speak to me. I just thank Him so much for all He's done. The blessings in the past day alone are almost innumerable.

I just settled into my room for the night, got ready for bed, and took off my make up. Not that there was much left. I just spent the past few hours talking to a wonderful brother in Christ. He exorted and uplifted me so much not only by his own personal testimony, stories, and opinions, but also through what he ended up saying to me personally. The Holy Spirit had a lot going on tonight in the third floor workshop room. He said that when he walked by and saw me alone with my laptop that he felt in his heart just to come in and say hi. What we talked about has benefitted me so much already.

I thought I'd been feeling closer to God, mostly because I was surrounded by godly people and this amazing setting. But now that I think about it, it was mainly sentiment. This discussion has given me and incredible amount to consider, to pray about, to do, and to relax in.

And I've realized that all writers go through hurt--many of them go through the most heart-rending pain imaginable. We've been advised on how to make our protagonist have a "bleakest moment" and that we should take something we've written that's bad to them and make it worse. And then we need to go at it again. And a third time for good measure. I thought that was extreme, especially in the context of my own story but now I know that God wants us to mirror our own lives through every aspect of what we offer up to Him as our writing and our craft.

I hope that you all know how much God loves you, how tender He is, how He loves being Daddy--Abba. I'm praying continually for the people I've met here, and those I already know and love.

I guess I just want to end this post by saying thank you. You, my friends, have done so much for me. I'll never be able to tell you how much. But I'll try.

Monday, June 7, 2010

6/7/10 4:28 am (Colorado time)

Yes, I’m awake. Apparently the extreme stress of yesterday is preventing me from resting and has managed to turn into my stomach feeling like it’s doing flips. I ate some almonds, and it’s feeling better. But now I’m awake. There were a couple of things I forgot to mention yesterday. The first is that I saw seven Spanish-speaking Shaolin monks on the Dallas airport train. The second is that gate agents are just as insane as I am—the woman calling for passengers for my second flight got tongue tied while giving the message and just let it play out. She also forgot to take her hand off the intercom button. It came out something like, “Now all passengers wcouldmuffumpalum. Hahaha, I got a bit tongue tied there. I can’t even say it now. All aboard! *long pause* Wow that was really ba—is this still on? SHH!” Also, it seems like I have a strange talent for finding Canadians. I’ve met the three who happen to be here, and of course like them all. Canadians are much pleasanter than Americans on the whole I think. At least the Americans in the airport yesterday. I really have nothing bad to say about this place. Except maybe that air conditioning would help. It’s hard for me to sleep in a place warmer than 76 degrees.

Oh, the flashlight reference from the first entry. I’m glad you asked. The lodge I’m staying at isn’t terribly far from the castle, but it is uphill and in the dark. I walked back last night with a group of about four other women, and we were all trying to use our phones to light the way. The road in between things seems to be the only place I get phone reception. This wouldn’t normally be a bad thing, but apparently since I didn’t get to text my mom more than once after I got here she was a little antsy. Very understandable. We’re quite cut off really. Rather than continuing on blogging and yawning, I think I’ll get back to my manuscript. I need to prepare myself mentally for the things we’ll be doing in Nancy’s workshop today. I’ve heard stories.

P.S. I just heard two people out in the hallway, so apparently I’m not the only one who can’t sleep.

Supplementary Blog 6/6/10 Sergeant

“817, 817 . . .”

“Redhorse. Just remember Redhorse. We were special ops. He’ll know.”

And now that he’s gone, I wish I had asked his name. I know he was born in 1937, he served in Vietnam (he was in Laos, but he’s not really allowed to say that), he lives in Florida, and he loves white water rafting. Reading, intent on delving into C.S. Lewis’ wisdom I was interrupted by his phone conversation with his wife. It’s raining in Jacksonville right now—he hopes they’ll be able to land. He’s just coming from Denver—visited his daughter, a registered nurse, who had a bowel blockage (that can be a very serious thing). He hopes this is the last time he’ll have to fly—he hates it. He’s not supposed to anyway. He still has shrapnel in his leg and face. Plus he can barely hear. Only ten percent in this ear—the right one. I had to suppress a laugh. The terminal was roaring with noise and I was speaking quietly, yet he could clearly hear me. He learns I’m from Oklahoma. Do I know the Will Rogers Turnpike? Why yes. I drive it almost every day. They have the world’s largest McDonald’s, in that city Vinita. The one over the road? That’s the one. And if I ever go to St. Louis I have to look for the floating barge by the Arch—it’s a McDonald’s too.

He’s glad to be coming home. Colorado’s not what he thought it was. Riff raff and crime. He likes peace. He’s lived in Kentucky, too. Never had to lock his doors. He called about his handicap sticker expiring. The woman greeted him and knew him by the sound of his voice. She said don’t bother with renewing it. Just get a Brillo pad and give that square a good scrub. He wrote in the new date as ’14.’ Goodwill wanted to know if he’d like to o back to Vietnam with them for a benefit. Hell no. His family thinks he’s not a good American for it, but he still hates the people over there. He can’t forget what happened. I said I didn’t think he was so bad.

I can’t relate to what he saw in that war, but I could feel the import of the tears welling up in his eyes. He was never close to his kids. They grew up while he was on duty. But he provided for them—college tuition for each one. And now when they’re sick, they call for Daddy. In all that time I sat next to him, thinking about his life and how hard things were for him to give so much up for his country, I never thanked him. He walked up to board his plane and wished me well. I returned the sentiment but nothing more. I know how he retired after 28 years of service, and how he worked in a coal mine to pay for his surgeries and for his family. But I’ll never know his name. Maybe this can be my thank you.

Written 6/6/10 10:14 pm (Colorado time) Sorry it's so long. :P

So, I promised to blog as I go and I’m doing just that. However, I can’t post it. Why? There’s no wifi in the Big Horn Lodge (where I am currently situated). There is also no air conditioning, but I’ll leave that alone for now. My first day. What to say? Where to start? I should start at the beginning, but I might end up turning this day into a novel accidentally. Eh, I have the time and the solitude. I may as well.

My day started around 4:00 am (Tulsa time). Things went swimmingly. I remembered to pack all the things I needed (although now I wish I had brought a flashlight—I’ll get to that later). I made it through check-in and security, and my flight to Dallas was a breeze. Then came the layover. I just had to wait around from 8:05 until my next flight, which was leaving at 11:10. I had pancakes at T.G.I. Friday’s and proceeded to start reading Mere Christianity (which I highly recommend to everyone—Christians or non-Christians or whatever). I met a really amazing person while I was waiting, and as a tribute I decided to write about them. It will be a blog entry much like this one, but a supplementary one dedicated just to them. But, back to Dallas at 10:40 am.

I had been checking the board, studying my ticket, and waiting at my gate. Everything was fine. Right? When someone asks, “right?” the immediate response should be “wrong” so I won’t dedicate a whole sentence to it—whoops. I’m tired. Anyway, the gate changed. I didn’t see it. I wondered why they weren’t calling me. I tried to find the gate. About two hundred feet from where I started, I saw where I needed to be in the distance. I got there too late. Yes, I missed my flight. After a slight panic attack and a frantic call to my mom, who sounded nice for the most part. She encouraged me, told me what I should do, and tried to conceal the disappointment and anger in her voice the best she could. I talked to the world’s meanest gate agent who said he would put me on stand-by for the next flight, leaving at 3:45 pm.

Zoom forward a few hours and bottles of water and crying trips to the bathroom later.
It turns out he registered me on the flight properly. I was never stand-by and shouldn’t have had to fret about getting on that flight for those long agonizing hours. I have many things to say about that gate agent, but I just won’t do it. Out loud. Or here.

So, I landed in Colorado Springs, got in my car, and headed off to Glen Eyrie. I forget mountains get bigger as you get closer. Now, before you laugh hear me out. I really do know that this happens, but sometimes my mind doesn’t fully grasp it. How do I mean? Well, I’m used to seeing the Rockies at a goodly distance (yes, goodly). Now that I’m right up in them, I can fathom their immensity once more. Garden of the Gods is wonderful as ever. Kissing Camels is starting to erode and lose its shape, but hey I still knew what they were. The castle itself is magnificent. There really are tons of Big Horn sheep on the property. There were five by the road when I pulled in. Yes, I took pictures. After flinging my belongings into my room at the lodge, I trekked back to the main castle for dinner. I’ve met so many wonderful people so far—I don’t even know where to begin. I met Ann at the airport. Helena from Ontario came next. Then the Tulsa CWA club found me. Then came Megan. Nancy Rue came right up and hugged me. If you don’t know who she is, then shame on you.

Dinner was quite tasty, and the conversation was lively. For the most part of the day, however, I forgot why I was really here. When someone asked me, “So, what do you write?” my mind’s gears jammed. What do I write? What? Who? What? I fumbled for an answer and finally eased into something satisfactory. Apparently that question gets asked a lot here. Oh, and since I had nothing else to say to a few people I asked it too. A magpie flew up to the car as we were driving in. Was it a sign? I won’t dwell on it.

After dinner the first General Session commenced. The mentors introduce themselves, and the theme song was presented. Yes. I’ll see if I can video it on my phone at least once. Apparently we have to sing it each time we meet. The mentors explained their individual tracks for the conference and took questions. I’ve been wanting to take the course with Angie Hunt because of her wonderful methods, her organization, and her list making. Oh, I love lists. But the more I listened, the more I thought I needed to extricate myself from my comfort zone. Developing a relationship with the reader? Developing one with your characters? Utilizing your characters for a common theme? These questions make me panic. They’re the ones Nancy Rue will address, and that is why I have signed up for her workshops. I might indulge in Angie’s next year.
Kathy Mackel (one of the mentors) had us play a get-to-know-you game. After learning a fact about each person in our group (we had been herded against our will) with the help of strange cards, we were given an assignment: work with your group to create something that incorporates each of these things named. It can be a short story, a play, a skit, whatever. Once we stopped squawking about the impossibility of it all and got to work, our group threw together a skit. We were blessed to have a script writer among us, and she played the lead. The rest of us either narrated or were side characters. Kinda, I did a plug for your book in my segment. You can thank me later—I like dark chocolate, by the way. And people laughed. We were funny. The other groups went and some were much funnier, but that doesn’t diminish our success in my eyes. “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good write!” I spent five minutes on that pun. Revel in it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Holy Schnikes

So, today's my last day in Oklahoma for a while. Did I use it to write to the extent of my ability? No, but I did finish my packing early, read a chapter or two of Return of the King, and watched The Wolfman.

How does that equate to being productive? It doesn't. Well, the packing was productive and necessary. I can hide behind that for now.

I've been having a lot of dreams about the conference and about airports in general. I hope none of them come to pass. They've not been all bad, but they have all been weird. In the latest one I ran into Stephen King during my layover in Dallas, and he took me out for lunch. I took a picture next to him, and so our faces were level I had to stand on a chair.

That wouldn't be terrible, but it would be quite awkward.

I'm bringing my laptop along with a notebook and pen. I'm bound and determined to record everything that happens. Will I post it all here? Maybe, maybe not.

There are going to be four main mentors at the conference, and after the first night we have to choose a track. I'm fairly certain I'll pick Angela Hunt--I'm wanting to focus on Process, which is the subject of her workshops. Just thinking about it, I'm getting nervous. I've been reading her books for years. I've sent her emails and things due to the fact that she helps out so much with the conference. She assures me that she looks forward to meeting me and that I should call her Angie. Please pray I don't throw up on her. And that I remember everyone else's names. And my own. And that I don't fall down any stairs.

Maybe just a blanket of prayer in general for me, if you would be so kind.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hamburger or Hot Dog?

That question in the title engendered about two hours' worth of discussion yesterday. Amazing.

Not sure if I have any profound advice today. I have the Weebls Scotch egg song in my head going round and round on loop.

I did finally get some writing done yesterday--about 2,300 words' worth. This is your cue to applaud and smile. Thank you, thank you.

Looking back on my fiction journals, I found an entry I spent musing over some advice. Said advice was that you should write at the same time every day. I don't do that. I tried for a while though. I thought, "Hm. 9:00 am sounds good." So I tried it. And failed. Right now I write whenever I can. I really like to be mostly alone in the house. I don't like having to explain myself and break my concentration when someone walks up and asks me what I'm doing. Is that selfish and eccentric? Yes. Can I get over that? Maybe. My mom suggested I make a writing hat that I plop on my head whenever the creative juices were flowing. I laughed, immediately thinking of me sitting at my laptop with a dunce cap on. But now I'm thinking about it more, it might be a good idea. It could be a visual aid to those around me so I don't have to wrench myself back into the real world after trying so hard to delve into my imagination. That's probably really silly though. Any suggestions from other writers out there? Anybody? Hm, I think I'll put that thought on the back burner for now.

Here's part of a writing journal entry from 1/20/10:

I was reading Bird by Bird today, and I ran across a quote by Carolyn Chute which says, “I feel like a lot of the time my writing is like having about twenty boxes of Christmas decorations. But no tree. You’re going, Where do I put this? Then they go, Okay, you can have a tree, but we’ll blindfold you and you gotta cut it down with a spoon.” It made me laugh—maybe a little too loudly because other students inhabiting the same general area in the library shot me stern glances. Not only is that how I feel about my writing, particularly the plot lines, but it’s also how I feel about my life right now. Everything is working out, and I know I’ll be fine but I’m slowly realizing that Bird by Bird really is instructions on writing and life. You’d think I’d realize that right away since the cover states it plainly, but no.

For those of you who don't know, Bird by Bird is a book on fiction writing by Anne Lamott. It's incredible, helpful, and funny. I'll probably be reading it again soon.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Colorado Springs, You are Not Prepared

I'm really looking forward to being around other writers soon. I've been holing myself up a lot lately to write, and I've started getting extremely weird. Getting past a head cold has meant a lot of naps with a lot of cold-medicine-induced dreams. Those have started blending into reality. My idiosyncratic tendencies have also ramped up a bit. I don't normally consider myself an eccentric person, but lately I've gotten pretty batty.

Side note--beluga caviar comes from beluga sturgeon, not beluga whales. That has nothing to do with writing unless you want to include a character who eats illegal caviar, but just in case I thought I'd let you know.

After posting yesterday I got hit with patchy brain fog, and I only managed to crank out about 500 words. Not good. So, I have more ground to make up. Oh well. I hope the rest of you are having better fortunes with what you're working on. For now, I'm signing out. Off to lunch where I can showcase my new knowledge of sturgeon.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I'm baaaack

So blogging world, it's been a while. I may not have made many entries in here during the last semester, but I was still writing. In fact, I was writing quite a bit. On top of short stories and things, I kept up a fiction journal. I might start going through those entries and posting them if there's anything worth sharing. Maybe I actually stumbled across something profound or inspirational. Or maybe it will just be amusing to see what comes out my imagination at four in the morning before a deadline.

Speaking of short stories, I picked one that I had been working on and decided to expand it. It's currently between 20,000 and 30,000 words. I'd give you an exact number, but I'm too lazy to open up Word at the moment. Is it the most life changing amazing thing I've ever written? Probably not. But it's definitely my longest work to date. Why take a 6,000 word story and try to blow it up in such a short time? Well, I'm glad you asked.

On Sunday, I leave for a writers' conference in Colorado Springs at Glen Eyrie. I'd really love to have my manuscript wrapped up by then, but it's not looking possible. So, I'll be glad at this point just to have the bulk of the first draft down. I'll give you a hint: it's not called No Horns or Trumpets.

I'm trying to get back into the habit of blogging because I'd really like to chronicle my experience out at the conference. We'll have time during the day for freewriting and aside from using that time to work on my story (and to take loads of pictures of the Glen), I'd like to use it to post things here. I'll be in the presence of several great, well-known authors. After the first general meeting, we will choose a track for the remainder of the conference. There are four tracks to choose from; one author will be the mentor for each track. I'm leaning toward picking Angela Hunt and her track about Process. I loved what she had to say in A Novel Idea, and I'd love to hear more.

Now that I've primed the writing pump, I think I'll get to work on that manuscript again. Must resist Facebook.