If you are finding this site from my sister’s obituary – the paper mistakenly left my email signature on when they copied the text. Neither this site, nor the quote, is relevant to her obituary.
Back from Boot Camp. I got home last night so very late, and I was of course already so exhausted that my eyes were crossing. It was amazing, and I will write a ton about it. Later.
In the meantime, in honor of my airplane flights, here is part of a comic from The Oatmeal.
Is this exactly how it feels? WHY YES, YES IT IS.
Just 3 more days till I fly (and that’s counting today). So I’m:
- doing laundry
- making lists
- printing tickets
- reviewing that “list of things to do before leaving” and postponing about half of it till after I get back
- half-heartedly picking up the house
- finding my blue shirt that I’ve been looking for for weeks!
- making sure I don’t wear anything that I’m planning to pack
- playing Spinners dominoes with the children
- editing photos
- lining up babysitting
- attempting to make sure I don’t forget something vital
Back at it.
I figured I’d share a couple of sites I’ve found/started using lately.
Pinterest - I’m using it to collect style pictures, home/interior design pictures… and “zing” – i.e. ideas and inspiration for writing. (I ADORE the term zing, which I first read about here from John D. Brown.) You need an invitation to start using it. Also, here’s a tutorial post on using it which I found useful. (From a digital scrapbooking website, but obviously not confined to digiscrapping. Though I love scrapbooking myself.)
Oh Life – This simple site sends you an email (daily or weekly, however you set it), and you reply to it with a summary of your day. So, journal tool? I don’t have a smartphone (yet), but it seems like this could be a great tool if you do.
750 Words – This one is for encouraging morning pages/daily writing. It’s private, but it also keeps stats for you (like how fast you typed, how long it took, some algorithm for analyzing your content – extroversion vs introversion etc). And! They have badges to earn! Just another part of the motivation, I guess. But fun. I like the adorable illustrations.
Both Oh Life and 750 Words have an export option so you can easily get all your writing onto your computer. Ah, technology.
This is the story of when I got into Literary Boot Camp.
Applying is a fairly simple process. Print a form, include the first page of a short story and your deposit (which can be applied to just the class or else refunded, if you don’t get in), mail it in. And wait to hear, of course.
I wasn’t going to apply this year. Last year – I thought about it, very seriously, especially since there were two Boot Camps and I figured the chances would be better. But then I didn’t get my act together, didn’t get anything written to apply with, and the deadline passed me by. This year – I debated. Virginia, SVU, is much more convenient for me (in spite of being on the opposite side of the country – because of my family there) than North Carolina. Of course it was a question at first whether there would even be a workshop this year, what with OSC’s stroke in January, and given that, it makes sense that he would want to have it close to home. Then it was also announced that a former Boot Camper was offering one tuition scholarship for Boot Camp this year. And of course, ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
But then I delayed. I decided, I’ll go for the scholarship, but if I don’t get it, I can’t really justify going to just the class again, especially in an inconvenient location. I got permission to email in my application. And delayed. And delayed. I had nothing, no first page to apply with. Finally I picked an idea I’d just gotten a week or two before, and one from a long time ago, and I started wildly scribbling in my notebook. Then I typed it up – and it was exactly a page, double spaced. Oh boy.
Then it was Friday, the due date – and my family and I left to drive three hours and visit some family without sending in the application. At that point I figured there was no way I’d be able to get it in, I didn’t have my laptop with me or anything. Except my husband reminded me that I’d emailed it to him – so I did have access to it. So I availed myself of my uncle’s computer and printer and scanner, and got everything sent off. All the time thinking, oh, maybe I should’ve just left it. Now I have hope before the disappointment, instead of just disappointment. Cheery, hm?
Skip a couple of days. Wednesday. And I get a phone call – from OSC’s assistant Kathleen. “Hi, nothing’s been decided yet, but OSC is reading your application and he wants to know if you have the rest of the story, if you could send it.” Eeep. Um, no, it’s not finished. She was very sweet. “Don’t worry about it, a lot of people write just the beginning, for the application.” Then she continued, “Do you have any more pages?” Double eep. No, sorry, I just wrote the one page exactly. “Okay, no problem, we’ll let you know by Friday.”
So I hang up and proceed to more-or-less-quietly freak out, all flustered and shaky. Called my husband, talked to a friend who came by – and then proceeded to sit down and type a bit more – because I knew a little more of the story (though I still haven’t finished it, even now). It came out to almost another full page, and I emailed it, and called Kathleen back to tell her that I’d sent it. “Oh, you didn’t have to do that!” she said (though my sister said later as I told her the story: “What did she think you were going to do?” That made me laugh). (And ah, the whole time I was doing the second page I was shaking and nervous and thinking, Is this what it’ll be like if I actually get in? Typing as fast as I can through terror and adrenaline?)
Why the request for more? I’ve never heard of that happening in the accounts I’ve read (though I understand at least one person who applied was turned down because she was too good and didn’t need to be in the class. And then OSC bought her story for his online magazine). You can bet I was obsessing over the potential reasons. I mean, it couldn’t have totally sucked, or he wouldn’t want to read more, right? On the other hand, it apparently wasn’t a shoo-in either, or he wouldn’t have wanted to read more. My theory is that it was because there’s a sort of disconnect between the first paragraph and the rest of the first page. (Eventually I’ll put up my application page and you’ll see what I mean.) So the writing itself was decent enough, but maybe he couldn’t tell if the story part was going to come around, go anywhere, whatever. Thus the request to read more. Anyway, that’s my theory.
Anyway. You pretty much know the end of this. The next day, I had an email. Which I swallowed hard before opening, since last time I got this email it was not happy. But! I got in! With the scholarship even, which is amazing, terrifically thrilling and at the same time makes my stomach clench with …? nerves? disbelief? I’m not sure.
So, that’s why I now have reservations, plane tickets, and such, that’s why I’m going to North Carolina in August. (Well, maybe not so much why as how.) I’m very excited about the whole thing, and also, simultaneously, completely terrified. Mostly about the writing a story while I’m there. Not even the “how good it’ll be and whether I’ll get destroyed in the critiques” part. Just the “can I actually start and middle and finish a real story in 24 hours” part. I’m not usually that quick, to say the least. (For a couple years now I’ve struggled with the invention part of story-making, period.) A lot of it comes from an unfortunate Experience of Humiliation in playwriting class in college. (I didn’t have my play ready to read aloud in class on the assigned day and was completely ashamed.) And though I’m trying to get in all the practice I can beforehand, I’m still afraid. I could say nervous, apprehensive, edgy, but really, it’s just naked fear. But I’m trying to embrace it – both by admitting it, and now, by trying to accept it and move past it. My normal instinct is to run as fast as I can from fear (or various other unpleasant emotions). But it’s always worse when you let it chase you.
Many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them. -Brendan Francis
I have to admit to a bit of a recent obsession with Pixar, mostly because they obviously are fantastic at story development, which is what I feel like I struggle the most with lately. I recently saw the documentary The Pixar Story (yay streaming Netflix).
Here’s a couple things that impressed me, watching it.
- The birth of computer graphics and animation. How much vision and creativity and a view of possibility that they had to have back then to see where it could go, eventually. Because boy, when it started – not so useful or impressive.
- When John Lasseter was fired from Disney. He’d always wanted to work there, and then not only did they reject his project, they fired him essentially for wanting to do computer animation stuff. And you just know it was shocking, a crushing blow. And yet! If it hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have ended up at Pixar/starting Pixar. And we’d be sad. (Not to mention pretty soon Disney wanted him back desperately, even before Toy Story; and NOW he’s one of the really bigwigs at Disney as well. Wacky.)
I also am fascinated by their creative culture. Doubtless it’s not perfect. But there’s appeal to the idea of a place where you can bounce ideas off people, where there is such free exchange and play and support of creativity. Also all that cereal.
Other articles with Pixar and storyteling:
The Secret of Pixar Storytelling
Andrew Stanton – Understanding Story, or My Journey of Pain
This is the beginning of the story of how I went to Literary Boot Camp.
You can read about Orson Scott Card’s Writing Class and Literary Boot Camp elsewhere. But I’ll summarize anyway. The whole shindig is a week long. It’s been held every summer (I believe) since 2001, in varying locations that have included California, Utah, Virginia, and North Carolina. The first two days are the Writing Class, which is open to whoever wants to come and pay their moneys. To be part of the Boot Camp, you apply by sending in the first page of a short story. Boot Campers (14-16 people or so) attend the first two days, and then during the remainder of the week proceed to each write a short story (based on ideas developed in the first two days) in about 24 hours and then workshop them as a group, led by Orson Scott Card.
Here one of my fellow Boot Campers this year has posted a list of Boot Camp accounts online, very useful for those who may want to read up on it all:
I applied in 2009, initially. Wrote a short story, worked on it for about a month beforehand. Didn’t get in. Yes, I was disappointed. (All right, if you want the whole story, I read the email and my heart fell, but I told myself, I can handle it, I’ll be okay. A few hours later, my husband came home from work, and as I told him I suddenly burst into tears.) But I decided to go to the class anyway. (It was at Southern Virginia University, and we arranged to visit my parents in Virginia as part of the trip.) (Later I also soothed my ego a little when OSC told us that it had been very difficult to choose, that he could’ve easily filled two workshops with the applicants he’d had. And in fact, in 2010 he did hold two.)
Writing Class 2009
SVU is in Buena Vista, VA – a small town, and so pretty, all hills and early morning mist. The campus itself had a wonderfully familiar feel, to me – the brick dorm and the old main building (I went to the College of William and Mary, where it’s all brick). The class was held in the open central lounge on the third floor of one of the dorms, where most of us also stayed. The cafeteria, on the other hand, was way down a near vertical hill in the main building. It made for an interesting walk three times a day.
The class itself was two days of listening and sitting, long days, with breaks for food and to ease our weary backsides, of course. Also, Monday evening we paired up and went out idea hunting – two ideas from research, two from observation, and one from interviewing a stranger. Then we took those ideas and developed them into story ideas.
On the one hand, many of the things he covered can also be found in his writing books: Character and Viewpoint, and How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. I would certainly recommend reading them, especially Character and Viewpoint, which has a lot of unique information. But “Uncle Orson” is a very engaging teacher, excellent at leading a group, very patient and human in interacting with the students. (Apparently I expected him to be an alien?)
For me, the class was a great experience. OSC said at one point (paraphrasing here, of course): “If you’re here, if you’ve made the effort and sacrifice to be here, then clearly you’re serious about writing.” Which, duh, I probably shouldn’t need to be told that, but still…. No doubt we shouldn’t be attending these sorts of events for validation, and yet I think that’s part of it. And I have to admit that every time he talked about “we writers” and meant it (and he meant it every time), it was like balm to my soul. One of the best parts of the whole thing was just… experiencing the human presence of a real writer, someone who’s been at it for a long time, doing the work, becoming a master in a sense, and has been… refined by it, the way we humans become more fully our true selves when we do what we’re meant to do.
We had a sprinkling of rain yesterday while the kids and I went to town. Dark clouds over half the sky; my kiddos insisted they wanted to stand out in it while I dropped books at the library. It only lasted for a couple minutes though, and the sidewalk dried almost instantly. Then when we were going into the hardware store, it started to thunder a little. And everyone outside looked upward with such expressions of hope and anticipation. You can tell we live in a desert. Of course, everyone’s praying for rain extra hard this year, what with the fires in Arizona (some uncomfortably nearby).
So, what do y’all like in an author blog? I read a variety of them, so it’s not so much helping me decide what I want to do in mine. Some talk mostly about writing and writing related topics. Some focus on other hobbies as well, or their personal lives. Robin McKinley, for instance, talks a fair amount about her daily activities. With footnotes, of course. (Actually, the footnotes drive me crazy – not the fact of them, I adore her parenthetical asides, but rather the scrolling up and down. Basically I’m afraid I’ll miss something. It’d be great if they were hyperlinked – but I’m sure that would be a pain in the butt to set up. Actually, I finally figured out a way to deal with them – open the same entry in two tabs, then scroll the second one down to the footnotes, then just switch back and forth. Yay! I’m so happy, I love to read pretty much anything by her.)
In my mind, the point of blogging is to connect. So I suppose the point of an author blog is to connect with readers, potential readers, and others who share similar interests. That works for me.
Connecting (a big life-theme for me) requires openness. Online the question is always, to what degree? Balancing openness with privacy. In the past I’ve always blogged more or less anonymously, but the nature of an author blog requires using your real name (or real pen name) and being, to one extent or another, your real self online. (Not your complete self necessarily, which is different and probably impossible, really.) Well, we’ll navigate that as we go, which is always the way, isn’t it.
Meanwhile, let’s make this a little more personal, shall we?
I live in the desert, with my family and three cats (one black and white, named Willow; two orange brothers named Fred and George) and a dog (cairn terrier, like Toto – we call him Oz). I’ve been blogging a long time in other capacities (started in Diaryland on March 23rd, 2000, actually), and have had this blog named for a while, intending to use it as my (fledgling) author blog. The impetus to start now comes because I’m going to Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp workshop this August. (More about that later.) Yes, it’s a pretty big deal, and makes me feel that, oh, you know that writing thing you’ve been wanting to do, really do, oh, basically forever? Maybe you should get on with that.
So I am.