MWW Aftermath

That Matrix dial-tone is back.

I had promised myself not to write anything when I got home. I didn’t even want to blog. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about writing, period. It’s just that, I have a whole lot to think about. It’s like when I finish writing a story–I need to let it sit and percolate at the back of my mind for a while. I think I need to do the same thing for the conference.

My hubby, of course, is very glad to have me back. It’s good to see that he hasn’t killed the boy. And apparently, Daniel has got over his idea that once you get in the crib, you stay in the crib.

Naptimes from now on are going to be fun.

3rd Day at MWW: With a loud snap, down will come everything: laptop, bookbag, both shoulders and all…

This was a good day for cuts.

I cut the first twenty minutes of the first session because I didn’t sleep too well last night. Note to self: watching VH-1 is not good for one’s health. Remember when it used to…nawww…I’m not going to get into it now. Too easy.

The reason why I cut it was that the first session was more of a breakfast buffet where you sit at a table with an ‘expert’, talk to them or listen to them talk for 20 minutes, then move on to another table and ‘expert’. I was only really interested in three tables, so I timed my late entrance so I get a little more sleep. Hey, it worked in college. So mainly, I learned about non-fiction niche markets with Dennis Hensley and online literary websites with Nickole Brown. But it was at Heather Seller’s table that I get the best ever explanation of what “show vs. tell” means. But I’ll tell you about that later.

(And yes, this is irony that right now, I simply told you rather than showed you what she did, but come on, my mind is mush right now. You’re lucky you’re getting anything out of me at this point of time.) Suffice it to say, it lifted me out of the little funk I ended the day with yesterday.

After the morning sessions, I grab lunch and head back. One of the speakers, Crescent Dragonwagon (before you ask, yes, that’s her name. Stop giggling.) mentioned that for anyone who’s interested, she would conduct a writing exercise before the afternoon sessions start. So I join in.

Let me tell you something. At some point during a writer’s conference, you need to write. It’s far more useful and fun if you do it with a bunch of other writers, but when you write at a writer’s conference, you realize that all the stuff you agonized about (theme? symbolism? tone? how the heck am I going to remember all of this and churn out good stuff?! Nobody loves me…I’m a freeeeeak!) really isn’t bad after all. In fact, you will be shocked to learn that all the stuff that’s been pounded into your brain over the past couple of days are still there, simmering, waiting for you to gently lift it out in your words. And even though what you’re writing is simple stuff, first draft stuff, the quality of what you’re writing is so much stronger than what you did before.

Another reason why I did it was that Dragonwagon (and I’m sorry if you’re reading this, Ms. Dragonwagon, but each time I type that, it makes me giggle just a tiny bit) used the exercise to illustrate the ‘tone’ of writing. It was actually quite simple: she had us write a couple of paragraphs that reflected a certain mood or emotion, like ‘joyful’ or ‘somber’ or ‘hysterical’. I never really understood much about ‘tone’, but doing that exercise spelled it out for me, so much so I looked at my watch to see that the next session had come and gone, just like that. Feh–I subscribe to Writer’s Digest anyway, so I know about all the websites that writers need to know.

Dragonwagon (giggle…giggle…okay, I’ll stop.) was doing the next session, so I figured I had about half ‘n hour to track down some people. One of the great things I love about this conference is that people are so accessible. The speakers are not only willing to speak to you, but if you need them to clarify something, they will sit you down and talk to you so that you come away with a better understanding of things. So I tracked down Dennis Hensley and got him to explain a bit more about the literary genre, something I’ve been trying to wrap my head around since I’ve started writing, period. Then I tracked down Jane Friedman and talked to her about magazine stuff. Then I perused the book table as they started breaking it down. Then I got some water, and wandered about. Then I filled out the evaluation form….

And that was when I realized that I completely missed out on Dragonwagon’s session. Whoops.

Oh well. That’s okay. What I learned today far made up for it, and I think my mind is still sulking from yesterday, so I’m not going to hammer it with information anymore.

All that’s left is the banquet, and then home again, home again, jiggety jig. After I write this, I’m going to close my laptop, put it back in the bookbag, and stash it someplace until after the banquet is over. My shoulders hurt so much for lugging this thing around, I keep expecting to hear a loud snap, and down will come everything: laptop, bookbag, both shoulders and all….

2nd Day at MWW: I think I’ll sit here and cross my eyes for a while….

Feeling much better now that I had a pretty decent night’s sleep. Which is good, since I’ve been in workshops since 8am…

These sessions are shorter than the ones yesterday; they last about an hour, whereas yesterday was one long session broken into 2-1/2 hour slots. So there’s a lot of moving around, lot of information coming at you. Thank goodness that they gave us handouts and speaker notes ahead of time. We sit, listen, ask questions, listen, run to the next session, sit, listen, ask questions…A couple of sessions, we do some actual writing. Those are really, really nice.

In between sessions, I talk with people. Laugh. Commiserate. Get into a very interesting discussion on mainstream churches and home-churches. In fact, there’s a whole lot of Christians at this conference, speakers and participants alike. The book table is even run by American Christian Writers: lots of their stuff is on the table, CDs, tapes, pamphlets, books…I buy a CD “Writing for the Unchurched”. Very, very interesting.

My last session on genre bending, blows my mind and gives me ideas for new stories to write in different styles. Unfortunately, this class is right before I meet with an agent–my mind wants to deal with this new story idea, play with it, but I need to force it to the upcoming meeting. My mind sulks.

The agent’s running a bit behind schedule. I sit, waiting, and oddly, that song from the Jetsons, “Eep Ark Oorp, Ah-Ah” starts playing in my head. My mind, still miffed that it can’t compose, is threatening to desert me.

Finally, it’s my turn. I had researched this agent before I came here, and though I bring something already, I know that this is my chance to see how Willow will stand out, so I bring a synopsis of that, too. Most of what she tells me pretty much confirms with what I’ve thought about the book when I was writing it–it gives me an idea to go when I start my second draft. But still, I come out of the meeting a bit depressed. It doesn’t help that right afterwards, there’s a writing contest: we’re to write 100 words in an hour on a certain topic. My mind looks at it and says, “Shutdown in 3-2-1. Shutdown complete. You’re on your own, sucka!”

Needless to say, I don’t win the contest.

I’m going to sit here and cross my eyes for a while. Then, I’m going to go commiserate with some newfound friends over pizza and beer. From the looks on their glazed faces, their time with the agent didn’t go as well either.

1st Day at MWW Part 2

Mmmm…yummy food…

It’s strange to hear so many people speaking of your trade that you normally deal with by yourself. Overheard:

“Is this supposed to be a picture book for children? The pictures look too–strange–”

“You need to show, not tell.”

“I think I need to rip out the prologue altogether because it’s not going anywhere.”

“I told my agent that it had to be one of the larger publishing houses. I haven’t heard anything since. Agents are no good scums. I’ve been waiting three months and nothing!”

“Do you think I need to cut down on the background stuff?” “Well, it goes on for about five pages. I think so.”

So far, I met today:

A nice elderly lady who interviewed Jimmy Hendrix and the Beatles, and who can write in shorthand.
A screenwriter who has submitted a draft to the Sundance Festival.
Jane Friedman, editor of Writer’s Digest
A woman who has traveled here from Australia.

More tomorrow.

1st Day at MWW, part 1. (insert dial tone squeal here…)

Okay, I’m thinking of in the Matrix, when Neo goes into the real world for the first time by getting strapped in a chair, then all the mirror goo flows over him, and as it enters his mouth, he screams, but then his scream morphs into this loud, piercing, elongated, electric dial tone squeal…kind of like EEEEERRRRRRRAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRR…..

All right. Now imagine that going through your head constantly, with some occasional bouts of caffeine jerkiness, and that pretty much sums up how I feel at this moment.

I’m running on four-hour sleep fumes when I got here and immediately hit the first session taught by Dennis Hensley On Reading and Writing the Literary Story. First part, so brain-dead I can’t even think straight, and he’s going on about symbolism and colors and I’m thinking what does this have to do with writing literary stories? At the break, I even ask aloud, “Am I in the right session?” He assures me I am.

2nd half, we read a story and break it apart, and all that he had taught before in the first half comes together and coagulates in my mind, but not in a pleasant way. When we break for lunch, I’m almost in tears, thinking, And we’re expected to write like this? No way I can churn out something as wonderful as that? I’m a failure!

We’re fed lunch. Mmmm…lasagna. I think I’ll pass. That’s all I need, a carbohydrate crash in the middle of the afternoon. I bring my plate into the full dining room, and a line from the Jack London “War” story we read in session comes back to me. “He was appalled by his own loneliness…” So to combat it (wait…the symbolism’s kicking in…), I go up to a table and introduce myself. The people are nice.

There’s a speaker during lunch, but while I’m supposed to be paying attention, all I can think of is EEEEERRRRRRRAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRR…..

3rd part of the session. Hensley’s giving us more info, more examples. I scribble notes madly. Yes, red = danger. White = life. Gray = life and death simultaneously…

And at some point, something clicks. Wait a second. My main character in Willow has gray eyes. He’s a Voice for trees. He uses their powers to bring life, but he also uses it to bring death…OF COURSE! I GET IT!

And suddenly, the world turns a half-click sideways, and I get it. This is how you write literary fiction. It’s so easy, so laughingly, horribly easy, I can’t believe that I never saw it before. I mean, yes, I saw it, but I didn’t see it. Making the words work for you. Using them to tell the story. Bringing the reader in to make them want to read more. I get it. I get it. The feeling is wonderful and horrifying in that I can write something like that, makes me all jittery….

No…wait…I think it’s all the coffee I drunk earlier that’s taking its toll.

That’s it. At the final break, I get orange juice and water. No more coffee for me. Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll sit in this chair and space out while I wait for the next session to begin.

EEEEERRRRRRRAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRR…..

1 Day Before Midwest Writers Workshop

Is it here already? That was fast. Seems like yesterday I got the scholarship letter. Now here I am, getting ready to go to the Midwest Writers Workshop. The travel plans have been made. All I need to do is pack and print out some stories.

I haven’t written much these past couple of weeks. I did freewrite a couple of stories and some poetry, but I haven’t been forcing myself to sit down to write. If I wanted to watch a movie with my hubby, I did. I also haven’t blogged much. It’s okay. This has been a little bit of vacation time for me. It’s been fun having some extra time in the evenings to hang out with family, to get some sleep and catch up on reading.

I’m still getting used to not working on Willow. It feels, in a way, that I have too much free time, when in fact, I don’t. It only means that I have more time to focus on short stories and poetry, as well as get ready for the Workshop.

I do plan to send updates, as the campus there has wireless and I am taking my laptop, so watch this space tomorrow and the next couple of days. I don’t have a clue of what I’m in store for, but it will definitely be interesting.

You Just Finished Writing a Novel. Now what?

It feels weird.

When I sit at my computer at night, I automatically start to move the mouse towards the Willow folder I keep in my toolbar. Then I remember, oh yeah. I finished the book. Then I think, wait a second. I don’t have to write anymore at night. How come I’m not downstairs watching TV or something?

Habits are hard to break. Good and bad. I had thought that after last week, I would take a couple of weeks from writing altogether. Sort of a mini-vacation of sorts. I saw myself sitting on the futon, sipping mojitos and catching up on all the sitcoms I haven’t seen in months. Or maybe actually finishing that Final Fantasy game that’s been on my laptop…and other computers…for many, many years. Or maybe going for long walks with my hubby with Daniel bounding in front of us in his light-up Buzz Lightyear sandals (nice to wear at night, when the flashing lights resemble fireflies who got into too much red Merlot…)

Instead, here I am, sitting down. Writing.

Oh, don’t think I haven’t done any lollygagging. Yesterday, I watched Napoleon Dynamite–an actual DVD, after dinner. Ooooo! And today, during Daniel’s naptime, which is my normal time to write, I decided to take one too instead of writing. Aaaaaaahhh! And this Friday, I plan to take my kid to the zoo. All day! Indrawn Gasp!

On the flip side, however, I edited a short story and started the submission process. I also did an inaugural post for the Writer’s Block, which I have joined as a new writer. (If you wish to read that post, you can see it here.) I’m also seriously thinking about revamping the blog a bit, making it look more nicer, adding some sweet new features. And let’s not forget working on some new stories. I gotta get my published stories list nice and padded.

Hmmm…I didn’t think I’d be so busy after Willow, but that’s okay. One of the great things about writing is that you can go at your own pace. Now that I’m done with Willow, the plan is to let it simmer for a bit on the back burner, percolate if you will, for about several weeks. I plan to pick it back up again in September and start the first edits. I already know what I’m going to do for those edits, and I feel like I’m chomping at the bit. Part of me wants to dive right in and start those edits now.

But there’s good in letting something rest for a bit. It will help my creativity far more if I put some distance between the book and me. Thus, when I return to it in September, my mind will be fresh and ready to tackle the job. Plus, I need to enjoy this leisurely pace I have now, the freedom to choose when to write and when to not. The urges to write show what I am, fundamentally, is a writer, and that won’t stop even if I don’t write for a day or two (or in the worse case scenario, seven years). The times when I don’t feel that urge show that I’m enjoying the life God gave me, whether if its folding laundry or yelling at the boy for using my lotion as fingerpaint on the carpet.

Uhh…wait…

I’m enjoying the life that God gave me, whether if its going outside to look at my growing tomato plants or my boy giggling as he hides beneath the blanket on my bed, or actually stretching out on the futon and doing absolutely nothing.

Yeah, that’s better.

And oh yes. Vote for Pedro. Bunny Style!