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Hollywood Jane in Massachusetts, Part I

June 24, 2008

Tor and Julie

My friend Theresa

My home away from home

So there would have been a blog post yesterday except that by the time I got back to my room, the internet wasn’t working.  Let’s see if I can get caught up.

After twelve hours of sleep, I felt like a whole new person.  They serve breakfast a little too early for me, but I took a shower (in the scary!shower with the crumbling, moldy ceiling), and went to workshop.  My workshop leader for the first half of this week is Tor Seidler, a children’s book author, and yesterday we talked about someone’s picture book.  It was only four pages, and I wondered, ‘How can we stretch this to two and a half hours?’  But we did it.  It was actually really informative to take the book apart page by page, and I never realized before just how much work goes into a picture book.

In many ways it reminded me of screenwriting – a limited amount of space where every word has to count and pull double duty.  

Then we had lunch – the food here at Pine Manor College is terrific.  There was great pizza and they have real ice cream, yum!  It’s a far cry from the food at Mills.

After lunch were two lectures – I only stayed for the first, which was about use of the first person, particularly in memoir.  The lecturer said he would be making copies, so if I can get my hands on that, I’ll reproduce some of it, as it was a very interesting and informative lecture.

Then in the evening we had some faculty readings, including my instructor’s.  He read from his forthcoming book, Gully’s Travels, which is about a snobby Lhasa Alpso who learns a morality lesson.

Today I lost a contact lens.  I am cursed.  My glasses, you may recall, were in the bag I left in the taxi (still no sign of that, by the way.)  For all you nearsighted readers, take note: never, ever, go on vacation without multiple pairs of contact lenses.  Normally I follow this rule myself, but it was somehow overlooked this time.

In workshop we discussed this one guy’s rap-like poetry.  I’m not much for poetry, and this wasn’t really what I was expecting, so I was a little quieter than usual.  It’s very difficult to critique poetry without a lot of experience.  

I have to say, while I’m enjoying myself and meeting lots of interesting people, the conference is feeling a lot like school.  Now, maybe that would be different if I hadn’t just graduated last week.  I’m not being graded, of course, and there’s no written commentary, thank goodness.  But aside from the individual people and the setting (which, I’ll confess, was a big draw), I’m not sure that what I’m getting from the program is anything I didn’t get from UCR.  We’ll see, it’s early days yet.

After workshop today, I found my contact lens, hallelujah.  Wandering around half-blind was horrible.  To celebrate, I went out to take some pictures, surprising a baby rabbit, and finding a squirrel trapped in a trash can.

The first half of the student readings were today – I’m signed up for Saturday.  It was interesting to get a litmus test of the group’s talents; I was mostly impressed, though I do believe there’s a difference between a story that’s read aloud, and a story you read by yourself.

A “pub crawl” has been scheduled for tonight.  Even though I don’t drink, I think I’ll go, just to spend time with my fellow writers.  It’s very interesting – though we’re only in workshop for two and a half hours in the morning, and we’ve only had three workshops so far, the group has very quickly divided into cliques.  The short story writers only want to hang out together, the poets are half the program’s numbers, the non-fiction writers cluster together for warmth.  I seem to have chosen the least social group – this frequently happens to me.

Maybe this is why it reminds me of school – of Mills, in fact.  I made friends with two women my first day here, both in the short fiction workshop, and already I feel as if I am somehow a second-class citizen for being in the one for children and young adults.  There’s an exclusion factor.  Not consciously, mind you, no one here is like that, but they’ve bonded, and I missed out.  My group, though nice and interesting people, they don’t bond.  Two of them commute.

Maybe it’s the dorm life.  Maybe it’s because yesterday I wandered into the dining hall at 6:20 for dinner, and found that everyone I knew was just finishing up.  They eat at ridiculous times here, and the hall, to my surprise, closes at 6:30.  

But sitting at the table alone doesn’t feel like it used to.  It used to tear me up inside, make me feel worthless, and disliked.  Now, having a better sense of myself, it’s simply a place to eat, and empty chairs only mean places for someone else to join me.


Quote of the Day:

“The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.” – Mark Twain, author and humorist

Link of the Day: The L.A. Times 2008 Summer Reading List

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