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Hollywood Jane in Massachusetts, Part III

June 26, 2008

The conference is going well.  I’ve met a lot of very interesting people since I’ve been here, and I’m sure we’ll all wind up in each other’s stories or poems before long.

Today was a return to our regularly scheduled programming, except that there was a transfer of power.  With the exception of the short fiction group, who had both instructors present for the first few days, the rest of us said goodbye to our first instructors, and welcomed in the new regime.  

Marina Budhos, author of (among others) Ask Me No Questions, is our instructor for the remainder of the conference.  I found her pleasant, intelligent, open and interested.  She did have a tendency to repeat herself, worried, I think, that she wasn’t getting her point across.  However, it was only her first workshop with us, and we’ve been together for several days now, so any miscommunications are understandable.

Our workshop is down by one.  The poet, Jasen, left for reasons unknown and we were sad to see him go – or not see him, as was the case.  We are now four, and easily the smallest of the workshops.

There was a wonderful lecture by Barbara Hurd, a non-fiction writer who specializes in pieces on nature.  Her talk about learning to surprise ourselves was very enjoyable, and I couldn’t agree more with her point about finding new ways to look at the world.  

I was, and still am, very much wrapped up in myself.  I’m not calling myself self-absorbed, exactly, though I suppose I am, but more that I’m almost always in my head.  Efforts I’ve made to be an observer rather than just present in a moment have been extremely rewarding.  As an observer, you can collect experiences you’ve never personally experienced, which for someone like me, who has little life experience, is my best resource.  And eavesdropping is actually acceptable when you’re a writer.  I still have to do something with this lovely bit of conversation I overheard in a Panera in Riverside:

“I drove to Phoenix to see my ex-boyfriend and we started making out, but I didn’t instigate it.  He did, and I was all, whatever.”

It will feature in a story – perhaps the new YA that’s bubbling in my brain, tentatively titled, Audtion.

This evening we had three faculty read, Patricia Spears Jones, Lee Hope, and Eric Gansworth.  I normally drift off during the poetry, but Patricia Spears Jones was a lively reader, and didn’t fall into the trap of adopting a slow, sonorous speaking voice that seems to afflict most readers, poem or prose.  Lee Hope‘s excerpt was enjoyable, but occasionally her voice dropped so low it was hard to hear her, and while there were some great moments of subtle character work, there were also times when I thought she was restating feelings and emotions without ever explaining them.  Of course, it was chapter 14 out of who knows, so I’d probably feel differently if I read the whole thing.  Eric Gansworth was my favorite of the three, and I’d like to get one of his books.  A Native American who grew up on a reservation, Eric’s story was both funny and touching.  I think it was non-fiction, but I don’t want to hold myself to that.  Whatever genre it was, it was the sort of story-writing I aspire to.

Despite being here for my YA novel, which I’ve been revising despite telling myself it was finished (I can’t help picking at it, like a scab), I keep finding inspiration for non-fiction work.  The truth is I want to write everything, all at once, but when I actually have the time to sit in front of my computer, I play Super Mario Brothers Flash instead.  There is no real cure for a short attention span, no great advice I can give or steal from others. 

Actually, I can.  I just remembered a quote from one of my favorite writing resources, The Pocket Muse.

 

Quote of the Day:

I once heard a college student in Waterville, Maine, ask visiting writer Ron Carlson how one knows if one is really a writer. Ever the showman, Carlson delivered an entertaining riff about the distractions writers put in their own way, all day, all the time: leaving the room to get coffee, check the mail, get coffee, walk the dogs, go to the bathroom, get coffee, look something up, get coffee. Then, dead serious, he summed up the whole enterprise in a line I have never forgotten: “The writer is the one who stays in the room.” – Monica Wood, author The Pocket Muse: Ideas & Inspirations for Writing

Link of the Day: The Pocket Muse on Amazon – I recommend this for anyone who’s ever suffered from writer’s block in any form, and I just discovered she’s written a second one, which I’ll have to get my hands on.

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