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.