Wow...it's already the last day. Hardly seems possible. And it hardly seems possible that I could get less sleep than I already have. But you see, all things are possible. Beth Bernobich came over at 9 am to print some things and we talked about writing and story. Beth let me use her notebook to fix some pages while her stuff was printing on my notebook. Thanks to Office XP being a POS, I was unable to create new text or edit any existing document, so I used Beth's Office 2K to edit .
Today, Steve Gould gave a wonderful talk on the Writer's Life. He didn't talk about the standard things. He talked about the isolation of being a writer and knowing what kind of writer you are and about a lot of things I hadn't thought about. It was very good talk and I got a lot out of it.
I ate lunch in my room again, working on some writing stuff and fighting with $*%&*#$ Word XP and losing. AGAIN.
After lunch, Patrick Nielsen Hayden gave a talk about the State of the Industry. He gave very interesting information about how mass market paperbacks are distributed, how the system worked in the past and its current problems. He also offered his opinions on the direction he felt the industry was moving. Very, very good information that carried us through his talk and through the final Collegium as well.
At 4:30 pm, Yog and Theresa Nielsen Hayden took five of us to the Gay Head Lighthouse at the other end of the island. It was a long drive out to the lighthouse, but we got there during the golden hour before sunset and the Gay Head cliffs just burned with autumn. The lighthouse itself was so majestic against the ocean and turning leaves. I took photos of it. I'll try to post them later. Can't do it from here.
We didn't get back until 6:30 pm, a bit late for supper. Mary made tacos and veggie chili that was excellent (like all the meals she prepared). Mary and Mark were angels! They took such good care of all of us. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mary and Mark.
At 8 pm, the party started. We drank wine, laughed, talked about how overfull our brains were and how much we'd enjoyed the workshop. Then after the group shot . . . yes, you guessed it, we played Thing and Mafia until well after 1 am. Then we had to tell everyone goodbye. That was hard. I'm really going to miss everyone! In a group this size, you kind of expect that there will be people that you don't like or won't get along with or someone who has an ego as big as Texas. Not in this group. I really, really enjoyed hanging out with every single person. I hade a lot of friends this week. If any of you VP 5ers (staff, instructors, and students) happen to read this, I just want you to know how much I enjoyed your company this week. I've learned so much from each one of you. In short, you guys RAWK! There's going to be some great writers coming out of this group. Each one of you made this week special. So, thank you all for a great week!
I still have to pack and it's almost 2 am.....have to check out and leave by 9 am....
At this point, sleep is a distant memory. I managed to drag myself out of bed and go to the Group Grope. Debra Doyle led this one and Sean Finn was in the hot seat. He turned in an interesting story that I enjoyed reading. Theresa Nielsen Hayden gave a very good lecture on the art of exposition. She gave us some excellent information and tips on handling exposition. It was a very info-packed lecture and I got a lot out of it.
Wednesday night, we were handed a group writing assignment based on the Evil Overlord clichés due at Thursday's Collegium. Stephanie, Lora, and I struggled to create an outline for our story and managed to create something.
I ate lunch in my room because my next one-on-one with Jim MacDonald (or Yog) was at 1:30 pm and I was trying to get some things printed out. But -- that &$!^$% Word XP wouldn't allow me to edit anything or make changes. Lora and Sullydog came over to print their assignments. Sullydog wrote a hysterical story in response to the assignment. :)
One of my pivotal moments at the workshop came during my meeting with Yog. Okay, they refer to this man as The Plotmeister, but that's just wrong. This man is the Plot god!! In a life-changing moment, Yog told me what my problem was. For 9 years, I've tried to figure out what I'm doing wrong and in the space of 30 seconds, he told me. And not only did he tell me, but he SHOWED me. He showed me how to fix my story and why I had this nebulous sense that something was wrong but didn't know why. Now, I know why. I'm going to have to study and train myself to fix the problem, but now I know where to go from here. :) As I was leaving, Yog challenged me to write an individual story for the assignment. I had about 1.5 hours before Collegium to write something. And you know what? I did write something. I wrote a 2200 word short story. It was a just for fun exercise that I wrote -- wow -- just for fun. And I totally enjoyed writing it. No pressure, no markets, just writing.
About 11 pm that evening, we all walked the mile to the public beach to see the stars. They were magnificent! The velvet sky was threadbare with stars. The milky way was bright and clear, Cassiopeia, Taurus, and the other constellations filling the rest of the heavens. In the distance, the lighthouse danced across the dark sea. We all lay on our backs in the sand among the clam shells and watched the stars. And the meteor shower! The most incredible meteor arced across the sky in a whisper of pale blue and then disappeared. Across the shoreline, the breaking waves flickered with blue-purple fluorescence. Like a sea of stars. When I asked what it was, the others told me those sea stars were tinafore jellyfish! Yog took me over to the bridge to show me more of the jellyfish. Hundreds and hundreds of the quarter-sized luminous creatures floated on the tide and eddied under the bridge into the tidal flats. Watching them swirl into pockets of fluorescence in the darkness just took my breath away. Steve Gould handed me a glass and scooped up a bunch of the jellyfish to see them up close.
Laurel Amberdine (a kindred spirit who's a blast to hang out with) and I walked through the mist coming in from the ocean and watched Orion rise on the horizon. Little meteors flickered low in the sky as Jupiter cast a luminous trail of light across the ocean's indigo surface. At one time, four trails of starlight lit the water. How wide and vast the world seemed tonight. And how fortunate I felt to be sitting in the presence of such miraculous things. After I got back to the Inn, I could still taste the sea salt on my lips.
Today was my Group Grope, as it's affectionately called. Steve Gould set the tone by handing me a barf bag...and things kinda went downhill from there. It was a bit of a painful experience, but I survived. Debra Doyle gave a very good lecture on Sentences that Go Clunk and other problems.
We ordered lunch from one of the local seafood shacks. It was very good! I had shrimp and clam chowdah. After lunch and a little moping, I walked into Oak Bluffs to console myself with a little bit of shopping. There, I ran into fellow workshopper Carol Boyke. I bought myself a little silver sea turtle charm to remind me of the sea. And to remind me that those little sea turtles fight to survive against incredible odds and predators from the moment they're hatched. The ones that survive to adulthood conquered those odds. So a little motivational symbol for me. :)
Carol and I commiserated about our group grope and then walked around a bit and finally back to the Inn. Carol is a terrific person. She's always smiling and has such a good outlook on everything. I'm very glad that we met. And if you've ever heard her talk about her daughters, you'll laugh yourself silly. She has a neat family with a pretty terrific husband who came out with her for part of the workshop.
At 4 pm, I had another one-on-one with the amazing Jim Kelly. This man is just incredible. We sat and talked about some of the comments on my story and Jim reassured me that yes, I do write coherent sentences and that my work is good. Then he helped me brainstorm about one of the story's problems and gave me some terrific ideas.
After supper we had free time. Woohoo! Of course, at this point, I haven't slept and sleeping sounds like a great past time...but well, you know -- too much to do, too much to see. We all sat around and talked and goofed around until Jim Kelly and Steve Gould suggested that we play Thing. This game was an absolute scream and Jim as the narrator just kept us all laughing hysterically. (and Night falls on the research station) The basic premise of Thing is that everyone is a scientist a research station in Antarctica (like Carpenter's movie The Thing). Everyone sits in a circle and takes a card from a regular deck of cards. All the cards are red suits except for the ace of spades. The person who draws the ace of spades is The Thing. When the narrator announces that night falls, everyone closes their eyes. The narrator then asks the Thing to awaken and identify itself to the narrator. Then it's morning and everyone starts accusing each other of being the Thing. You can do a "blood test" on someone to see if they're human or thing. If you're wrong and they are human, then the turns over and night falls. The Thing then awakens and chooses someone else to become a Thing. When the Things outnumber the research scientists the game's over and the Things win. But if the scientists kill all the Things, then they win. This game was a laugh riot! We laughed ourselves silly. :) :) After that, we played a similar game called Mafia where you have villagers and mafia. Villagers choose to wack somebody during the day. At night, the Mafia awaken and wack villagers gettin' wise to the Mafia's identity. This was great fun -- except when you had to whack an editor. ;)
It was 1 am before I got back to my room and I still had to finish my crit for Thursday's Group Grope. I learned lots today. It was painful, but I learned lots. My brain is filling quickly.
And a mini-rant: I just want to say for all to hear that OFFICE XP SUCKS!!!!! This miserable &%*%&$*%&* package caused me hell all day today and the first thing I'm going to do when I get home is remove it and put Office 2K back on. Okay, I'm done now. I feel better.
The day started off with a group critique. I didn't feel very comfortable on this one and felt pretty stupid, like my crit missed the boat on the whole story. And it probably did.
After group crit was done, James Patrick Kelly gave a terrific lecture about story. I got a lot out of his lecture and I hope to try some of the things that he does with his stories. Jim Kelly is such a witty, personable guy. And he's a master with plot. I've made an appointment to talk with him at PNH's recommendation, hoping that he can help me fix my story submission.
When lecture was done, I went out to lunch with Sullydog, Johnzo, Deborah Green, and Laurel and Chris Amberdine. Had some terrific conversation over clam chowder and Sullydog bought our lunch which was so sweet! We walked around Vineyard Haven for a bit and then came back to the inn. I took my notebook out onto the grounds and sat under a tree for an hour. And for the first time since September 11th, I opened up my novel chapters. I made some notes and did a little revision on the last two chapters I'd written. The novel still feels stupid to me, but not as bad as it did before VP. About 3 pm, I walked the mile stretch down to the beach and stood on the rocks for quite a while. The wind was blowing onto shore and beside me, a seagull floated on the updrafts with its wings outstretched. How I envied that gull. I wanted to stretch out my arms and float on the sea air, too. But mostly, I wanted to feel that pervasive lightness of spirit. So I closed my eyes and listened to the waves against the rocks and imagined I could float.
I couldn't stay long, only 40 minutes or so. Reluctantly, I walked off the rocks and back to the roadside path, hurrying to get back for the Collegium. At Collegium, Theresa Nielsen Hayden talked about stupid plot fixes. I found these very helpful and will try these as well.
Dinner was beer, pizza, and Shakespeare. We all read parts from Henry the IV and had a really good time. After the play, Jim Kelly showed us a game called Thing which was a blast! Steve Gould played, too. He and Jim really made the game a lot of fun. We laughed ourselves silly. After we'd played a couple of games of Thing, we played another game called Mafia. Jim MacDonald and the Nielsen Haydens played with us, so there were about 15 players in all. Again, we laughed ourselves silly.
But tonight, I'm back to a little nervousness because my group crit for my story is tomorrow morning. Steve Gould is leading it. I hope it goes well. I'm nervous. After supper, is my one-on-one with Jim Kelly. On Thursday, I hope to do a one-on-one with Steve Gould. I also want to make an appointment with Theresa Nielsen Hayden.
It's about 12:30 am here and I have to crash now. I hope I don't oversleep again.
Jim MacDonald started off the first day with a lecture on plot and pointed out some very interesting observations, things that had not occurred to me before. All of them illustrated through a chess game, magic tricks, and a model house. Very cool stuff! I very much enjoyed his talk.
Later, we broke up into our group crits. Patrick Nielsen Hayden was leading my first crit group. Beth Bernobich was in the group with me and we critiqued Lora's novel chapter. It was a good session and I learned a lot by listening to Beth and Patrick's comments. I have another group crit tomorrow (still gotta write up my crit)
After lunch, we had our first Collegium where Jim read a wonderfully funny bit about being a novelist. Then we talked about the real truth about slush piles and just how misleading some of the statistics can be about writer's chances of selling first novels. Patrick and Theresa Nielsen Hayden made some fairly optimistic statements regarding first novels. Okay, so isn't exactly rosy, but it isn't as utterly hopeless as it's made out to be. I was very encouraged by their comments.
Then following the Collegium came my first one-on-one session about my submission. I was bordering on hyperventilation prior to this session since it was with Patrick Nielsen Hayden. I was so incredibly nervous that I had to hide my hands so he wouldn't see them shaking. But I was totally unprepared for what happened. I'm still walking on air. :) Some very encouraging and wonderful things happened for me. It's 11 pm and I'm still smiling about it. This workshop has been so surreal for me. Granted, I have A LOT of work to do and it's going to be a major challenge to fix my submission story, but PNH gave me some very good ideas to consider. I feel incredibly encouraged at this moment and I feel that for the first time, my hard work and persistence have been validated. I feel like a new person right now. None of this stuff is easy and it still requires all the work that it ever required, but for the first time, I feel like there are some open doors again. I may not be able to pass through them yet, but at least, they are open. I feel positively giddy at this moment. :) :) I'm so, so, so glad that I came out here. This smile isn't coming off my face any time soon. In fact, I have a horrendous migraine headache at this moment, but I'm still smiling like a banshee. Today was an awesome day.
I got a late start on the day thanks to my upstairs neighbors arguing and fighting with one another. Such fun. Woke me up several times during the night. As I was walking out the door with my backpack on my shoulder, Lora was returning from Mass. So, she and I walked down to the ocean. The surf washed over twisted clumps of seaweed scattered with sea shells. The white-capped waves were such a beautiful frosted teal against the beige sand. We watched the little plovers flit across the wet sand, dodging the rushes of surf that cascaded up and down the beach. A fine mist filled the air and smell of salt was so clean and cool. I stood on the rocks and let the wind roll over me. It was such a spirit-reviving feeling to stand there in the ocean air and listen to the waves against the beach. I could have stayed there all day.
Afterward, Mark, one of the VP staff members was making a run to the Edgartown VP and tagged along, grateful not to pay $1 per diet coke anymore (which for a diet cokaholic like me was getting expensive). I picked up enough groceries to last me for the week (I hope) and came back to put them away. Lora came over and she and I talked about writing and politics and everything in between. We had a good time. Lora has such a warm spirit and I enjoyed hanging out with her.
Lora and I wandered around for a bit, searching for other students. Finally we met Laurel Amberdine and her husband, Chris. They're very neat people and I enjoyed talking to them.
At 6pm, students and instructors came together to stuff ourselves with lasagna and salad. When we'd eaten, the official orientation began. We received our critique schedules and the stories we're to critique. I met so many nice people tonight. I FINALLY met Beth Bernobich in person and she's terrific!! We both have a howling nightmare-of-a-cat and the conversation branched out to karate and furniture. I loved talking to her and hearing about her son. She's very cool. Met Sullydog, Johnzo, and Scott Janssens. Scott and Johnzo are from Seattle, so naturally, I had a lot to talk about there. :) Every student I talked to was so warm and friendly. This is a great group of people, so I'm looking forward to learning with them.
I've just finished my first critique and printed it out. It's still a bit early, so I think I'll try to do a little writing before midnight. I can't wait to go back to the ocean though. Mark and Mary (VP Staffers) may take an excursion to the FIVE lighthouses in the area -- I hope so, because I *LOVE* lighthouses. I want to see them all. :) Lora and I might go sailing on our free day Wednesday. Depends on the weather.
I feel good. Today was a good day.
I left for the airport in the middle of a rainstorm. When we finally got to the airport and I stepped inside, I was overwhelmed by the emptiness there. No lines. No waiting. No one dropping off passengers. It was almost desolate. And I had such a feeling of smallness standing there with all my bags.
There were only 18 people on my flight. Empty seats everywhere. Was I stupid to tempt fate like this, I wondered? It was really an eerie experience. The rain brought a lot of chop to the ride, but it was nothing like what I'd experienced in Denver. We landed early in Boston. And then the fun began.
I couldn't find the freakin' terminal. The first guy I asked for directions looked at me like I was an idiot and it physically hurt him to respond. I'm not sure, but I think he even growled at me. The next person I asked was very nice and helpful. I had to take a shuttle. Okay, I can do that. Walk out the shuttle stop and wait. And wait. Day became night and night became day. Cigarette butts on the sidewalks became fossils. The sanitation staff had to chip away an advancing glacier from baggage claim. At last! The shuttle! I climb aboard. And take a scenic tour of every bloody terminal and shuttle stop in the bloody airport! After my world tour, I finally arrive at Terminal A. Climb out to find my gate and discover Burger King. It's 3 pm and I haven't eaten a bite of food yet. So I stop at BK, order French fries and a BK Broiler. No sack. I have to carry them down the line TO the sacks by the cashier. French fries littered the floor as my supersize got downsized.
Checked in with Cape Air. Went through security again. Got to my gate with my hot junior fries (all three of them) and BK Broiler. Of course, that damned glacier had receded into Terminal A, lowering the temperature to that of a meat locker. In mere seconds, my remnant fries and BK Broiler turned to ice formations right there on the table. Ended up throwing the rest away. It was too much effort to gnaw my way through the ice to get to the food. Even though I had plenty of time to do so. Yes, the flight was nearly 15 minutes late.
At last, we boarded our flight to Martha's Vineyard. Y'know, . . . I've never experienced anything quite like this one. On taxi, our plane hit the wing of another plane. Hosed the wing on both planes. We'd moved all of 6 feet from our original position. We were asked to disembark (duh!) and wait for another plane. Back to the glacial drift upstairs.
Moments before hypothermia set in, they called us back down to reboard again. Different plane. Different pilot. Same passengers (despite the hibernation state we'd all slipped into). And we successfully took off. They didn't even have to de-ice the passengers before take off.
The rest of my trip went smoothly from there. Dave, the MVSFA coordinator was there to pick me up (Bless him for doing that!) and bring me to the Island Inn. Didn't really see much of the island yet. As soon as I arrived, I met Lora Livingood. She's my next door neighbor. : ) She's very sweet and funny and personable. We ate dinner together and then talked with Mark and Mary, MVSFA staff members, Jim MacDonald, Carol Boyke and her husband, and Theresa Nielsen Hayden. Met Steve Gould tonight, too. He seems very nice. Jim keeps teasing us about the Friday night newbie ritual.:) Tomorrow night, there is a get together at 6 pm to kick off the workshop.
The room is really terrific. I even have a fireplace. So far, so good.