~~ "She has so many aliases, you'd think she was a spy!" ~~

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We merry few, we band of writers

Our small group/one-on-one Structure workshop with Dean is mostly over, except for lunch tomorrow. We had no assignment tonight, so Leslie and I crashed, snagging the DVD A Night at the Museum from the main building. It’s one of her favorite movies, and I greatly enjoyed it. We laughed and laughed… Ah, it felt good.

Leslie and I have been getting along smashingly, negotiating a small cabin (her bedroom’s basically the living room; mine has a groovy beaded curtain for a door) with aplomb and great humor. I’m sooooo glad that when Phae bailed last minute, I thought to ask Leslie if she’d be willing to share the cabin (I couldn’t have afforded this otherwise, and she was thrilled for the price break as well).

Truth be told, we weren’t incredibly stressed this week. Dean swiftly figured out that none of the six of us had problems with story structure¬—we had other things blocking us. Teaching us some tricks of structure—things to internalize, send back to the subconscious to work as we’re writing, oblivious to them—was intended to get us past those blocks.

Fact is, every writer hits the same block at about the same place. Some writers have figured out how to get through it, so they don’t notice it as much. Neil Gaiman hits it. Charles de Lint hits it. Dean hits it. Man oh man, do I hit it! But now I’m feeling like I know what to do when I hit it, rather than flailing around in the dark like a drunken monkey.

The worst thing for a writer is for someone else to get into the middle of their project. You should be alone in your office: shut the door on critics, naysayers, editors (during the initial creation, this is), market news, etc. So, for the purposes of this week, Dean forced us all to start novels we didn’t plan on. Novels we didn’t, in some cases, even want to work on. For me, it was to take an exercise we’d done last weekend, which involved writing up a shopping list, and start expanding it into a novel.

I knew I should’ve made my shopping list for a sex toy boutique instead of a grocery store…

So now I have this here begun novel. It’s at about 6000 words. It’s funny, potentially sexy, and hoo boy, the problems I’m throwing at my characters.

It’s also, unfortunately, about cooking (among other things), so I see a bunch of eps of Top Chef in my future… Did I mention it’s called Seasoned With Danger?

The proposal is written, even, so after I clean up a few small details, I can actually get it circulating. (I’ll finish blanketing the world with the Waking the Witch proposals first.)

This weekend is the Contracts and Copyright workshop, and I sorely need it. I know there isn’t enough time to get nearly as deep as we’d all like, but we’ll come out of it with a far better grounding. I brought a couple of really bad contracts I’d been offered and refused (after the publisher declined to negotiate), and Dean nearly fell out of his chair when he read them….

Anyway. I’ll post this tomorrow (which is already today). Right now I’m very sleepy, and we’re having breakfast with Chris York tomorrow at the Inn at Spanish Head—yum!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Workshop Time

Workshop Time is an entity unto itself. Sometimes it feels as though I’ve been here for a week; other times, I want to refer to my reading as “last night.” The days blur, stretch, compress, expand. How many times have we walked on the beach? Which night did I toss and turn? How can I still have so many sandwich fixings but no milk?

I’m also trying to consider, each day, what motivates me here. What positive influences I can take home that drive me to the computer day after day. (Don’t get me wrong: I love writing. I can’t not write. But sometimes I avoid it, and I need to figure out why so I can stop doing it. The fear moves constantly. Bastard.)

Today Leslie and I woke about the same time, so we chatted during breakfast (about epic fantasy and religion and Kris’s books and, briefly, boobs), then we made tea (I brought my electric kettle). Now we’ve both retreated to our corners to sip tea and work, after which we’ll shower (not together, you pervs) and continue on. We’ll meet with Dean at The Hilltop for a session at 2 p.m., at which point we need to have our assignments done.

What would I be doing at home? Sipping tea and reading blogs, most likely. I’m not getting a strong enough wireless signal here in the cabin, although I did pop e-mail on my phone this morning. (Got some preliminary good news about a positive review, and my writing alias e-mail spammed my home e-mail address. Go figure.)

Now, to my assignment, one that made me giggle out loud more than once while I was working last night….

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I’m in Oregon, having completed the first of two weekend workshops, which will bookend five days of a writing retreat. We studied story structure, which I thought I mostly knew, but apparently my definition of “story structure” was much, much more limited than I realized… Not nearly the level of epiphany as the Marketing Workshop last year, but hoo boy, did I have some light bulbs go off! Definitely some new tools for my writer’s toolbox, as they say. And at least one new short story idea I’m quite chuffed about.

I flew up on Thursday and met up with Leslie, Cindie, and Dave. Traffic was horrid, so we stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place before really getting on the road. Still more traffic (a huge thanks to Leslie for driving through that with great skill and calmness!), but finally it thinned out, and finally we were in Lincoln City.

That night we hung out with a few other folks who’d come in early, as well as Dean, Steve, and Chris, before Leslie, Chris, and I repaired to our room to polish off a couple bottles of wine. (Dean stopped by to drop something off for Leslie and stayed for ages to chat, and also showed off his bartending skills by pouring us wine. Hee.)

Leslie and I are rooming together, and that’s proving to be a blast. We’ve known each other through a number of workshops, and while I had a pretty good sense that we’d get along well, I’m delighted just how comfortably we room together. Especially since her bed is in the living room of the cabin, and my bedroom doesn’t have a door, just a beaded curtain. (Groovy, man.)

We’ve managed to walk on the beach several times, which is always a highlight. The round trip takes 45-60 minutes and includes a nice uphill on the way back; we plan to have glutes of steel by the time we leave…

Originally I was going to just have a writing retreat for the five days between the two workshops, but after experiencing the Story Structure workshop and talking to Dean, I’ve decided to do a one-on-one session with him to work on some advanced structure issues. I’m not yet sure what my precise issue is, but I trust we’ll find it and he’ll beat it out of me with a club (or at least some hardcore assignments).

Now, however, I must dash: I have to finish a scene on PUM and get it off to Teresa before I meet with Dean to get tonight’s assignment, and I’d also like to maybe work on a short story if I have time. I still have a bunch of stuff to bring ya’ll up to speed on, though, like how my reading went, and some very very very exciting news about Ken!