Day One of the Writer's Conference and Workshops!

Today is Saturday, March 5:
Friday, March 4, was the first real day of the conference and I will get right down to it.  I was exhausted after a full day of tapping the creative core!!  I will tell you one thing; you need cerebral stamina to keep up.  By 5:30 pm, I was cashed out.  I literally wanted to grab a bag of Doritos and watch re-runs of the Three Stooges..  But oh, what glorious, creative fun!

After the opening remarks which although the writing was well done, the topic of Invisible Borders, was too politically sided for my preference.  I listened through the 50 minute reading by a very well known writer and was able to at least extract his rythym, use of language and prose and leave behind that I disagreed with most if not all of what he said.  But again, to be a writer. 

Now, just imagine a very large meeting hall in a very old building, 1839 first Tempe Normal School, wall to wall with history and great sound for readings and most attendees coming in by 9:00 for the opening remarks for the day, a little coffee and off to your selected class.  I again, although invited to observe the Master's Class in Non-Fiction, it was limited seating and strictly adhered to, so I went to a class by Shannon Cain who was discussing How to Kill a Cliche.  We had the most perfect venue, outdoors, golden sunshine and minus the bit of construction noise nearby, we had a great time.  She was an enthusiastic instructor and guided us through how cliches work their way into our writing.  We were given an exercise; Your mission is to write in one-word syllables, two sentences max, a snipit revealing to the reader a man is crying.  Wow... 

"With the grip of her hand, she lent to him the chance to fall to her.  A tear came and his breath, cold in the air, freed him for the first time."

That was my take on it and I did read it aloud.  A few others read.  Another lesson about Workshop, it is work, you should go in with both feet, anxious to participate, hear your own voice, find your own voice.  I am learning more about the Art and Craft of Writing than I ever thought I would. 

Next Workshop I chose: Reading Like a Writer by K.L. Cook  call me Ken..
Loved it!!  I would take all classes from this man.  I loved his reading aloud, his breath accentuated the light feather of "th", "v" and "f".  His passion, knowledge of text, historical work he pulls from and his ability to show the lay person like myself, what we need to see, was masterful.  I wished I had another hour with him in this session.  He showed for us the work of Steinbeck and how we can learn from his penning, Cannery Row.  I have never read Steinbeck I am sad to say, however it does not mean I cannot.  Just find time!!

The exercise involved reading and understanding 1st, 2nd 3rd person and 3rd person omniscient which I can say I did know all of those terms via other workshopping I have done.  I was not completely in the dark.  Thank God.  I am also finding myself in the company of some very intelligent writers who themselves are participants.. their readings are beautifully done and they are "getting it".  Some are published, some working on pieces..   The notes in my journal for this class are a scratchy mess and in bold letters I finally relented; "I am lost!!!  Going too fast!"  I did not give up but by the time 4 minutes (yes, 4 minutes to get a piece together..) I had nothing to read..

After lunch I attended a panel discussion with Gretel Erlich and Cynthia Hogue, two distinctly different writers but yet very eloquent in their work.  One a memoirist and one a poet.  I have also learned I have a new affection for poetry.  It is not just the sing songy, rhyming poetry you would assume.  It transcends narrative into a song and reads like a very intuitive short story in some cases.  Not at all choppy or predictable.  I earned a new respect for the poet and what fiction or non-fiction has to learn from poetry.  This exchange was dynamic and fluid, engaging and yes, I spoke up again.  I was feeling more and more at home.

I chose Writers in Conversation with Victor LaValle, Naeem Murr and Antonya Nelson.  This was held inside the Virginia Piper's House, you know the old wood floors, narrow doorways that cocoon you and the over sized furniture just begging for you to put your feet up, read-write. 

The opening by the very young MFA student with grown up features including a beard, glasses and worn, brown dress shoes, left us all a bit off when he introduced each writer and then turned it immediately to us for questions.  We sat silent.  We needed to hear from them first in order to ask them to share with us their methods on the craft.  So Antonya saved the day by asking her fellow writers a question on guilty pleasures.  What do you read as a writer.  That saved the day and the hour discussion flowed much more smoothly.

Time and Place with Gretel Erlich, Andrea Barrett and Jem Poster was next and this was held in the larger meeting room.  This was the panels' take on setting place and time in your story and the value from doing it well.  Some questions were taken from the audience and this last class concluded my day.  Whew!! I need a glass of wine..  yes, I did... two..

I am now midway through Saturday as I write this and I had the wonderful opportunity to workshop with K.L. Cook again and actually completed a work, although there was not enough time to read.  I finished it up with a couple of extra minutes and like it enough to at least put it here to conclude this post.  First, the exercise today was to write an "apology that was not really an apology". (Read: Tony Hoagland, Lucky and This Is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams).
The class was titled "Let's Misbehave".  It is designed to open for the writer an opportunity to lend in some cases, much needed "meaness" to our characters.  If our characters are lying flat for us, throw another rock at them and then some more as Hoagland says.  Then rescue them from the tree.  We had 4 minutes.  Again, I ran out of time initially but finished it about 1 minute later.  I did not read this one aloud today:

I pinched the sliver cuffs tight around her wrists and knew the cramped backseat would lend little room for relief.  The heat in the car was stifling but I turned the dial to high, an attempt to force some relief past the plexiglass shield dividing the front and rear seats.
I am sorry for the lack of comfort.  I apologize for your suffering, back there in the heat,
in August,
in Arizona
4:26 p.m. on this Tuesday
and you ask again, "Am I really going to jail?  That's fucked up."

But Graciella, your daughter died today. She died so you could climb back into bed. Tired after your night's foray-the stink of men and pot thick in your clothes and hair. 
Exhausted from taking your own mother to work just before dawn this morning. 
Graciella died while she cried locked tight in her car seat. 
Right where you left her. 

Yes, I am taking a direct experience in my work as a cop and using them quite often in this workshop.  I did two more times today..Parental indifference..

Gotta get back to the readings and an afternoon filled with more workshopping!!  Recommendations;  Read, read, read.  Read as much as you can.  Read really good writing, read poetry, somewhere quiet.  Not a commercial fiction but something, anything classic.  I have to do more of that.  Participate, force yourself to read something aloud.  Let your heart beat right out of your chest in the process, your words trip and stammer just before you finish and your lips tremble a little.  A natural high.

More later. 

ASU Desert Nights Rising Stars Writer's Conference Experience!

I am well into the conference now and just found the perfect wi-fi spot as an ASU guest user.  I am on lunch break.  I have one hour to eat and attempt to blog about a wonderful evening at the welcome reception at the DNRS Writer's Conference at ASU in Tempe, Arizona!!  What an experience and a class act. 

First let me start out by saying I predicted something earlier in my blog as I anxiously turned the days of the week leading up to the conference over in my head; would I make it?  Would I actually be able to go, freely and without distraction to a 3-day conference where I may at times not be home until after 9 or 10 at night?? Really? 
Well my friends, at 4:07 am on the morning of the first day, our youngest son woke with fever.  My husband took his place as the sacraficial parent to stay home while I trudged off to a full day of work and an evening among writers and readers.  Much to my dismay, as I sat in a contract bid pre-conference, trapped by heat and 40 people firing questions to me about what I expected from the bidders, I began receiving texts my husband was on the way to the hospital with our son. 
Our youngest has ARPKD/CHF and was transplanted 3 years ago today to be exact.  So on the day before his 3 year anniversary of his transplant, he is carted off to the ER with high fever.  This was only after struggling to break the fever into the late morning.  I left the contract meeting asap and headed to the hospital.  Thankfully and as predicted, this was a routine measure due to his transplant and we were aware of that.  He has croup (learned today after recognizing "the bark") but when you have a new kidney, you  must protect it, at every cost including convenience.. the ER visit is not new to us, we were just praying he would not be admitted. 

Whew.. finally later in the day as I left work, boarded the train headed for the ASU campus, I relaxed.  The frustration was now in my dear husband's lap as he waited, and waited and yes, waited for tests, reports, IV fluids and antibiotics just a precaution.  I started to loosen the guilty pull on my internal "mommy hard wiring".  The parent child bond is as tight and as predominate in my core as breathing is natural to most people.  I had to fight this drive to flee and return to my babie's side that was really just being overplayed in my head.  Guilt is an incredible mediator...  What allowed me to let stay on that train headed for ASU were the reinforcing words from my hubby, "Hey, he's fine.. we should be home soon.  Go to the conference.."

I made it..

I walked the campus in the direction I knew Old Main sat and passed the glorious Virginia Piper Writer's Studio on the way.  Its solid bungalow style porch, invites you in to have a seat in the overly stuffed chairs, take a stroll through the rooms with their narrow doorways and enjoy the creaking of floorboards that have welcomed many a writer before. 

I came upon the impressive stair leading to the second floor of Old Main and novelled at the two or three conference participants snapping quick pictures of a mocking bird calling out from a scrawl of dead tree branches.  Half a dozen other attendees seated around the massive fountain just outside, hunched eagerly over their conference materials.  The night could not have been better for an opening reception.  The sun was just setting and the song of the fountain and soft chatter of passerby lended an inspirational mood and after checking in, I broke out the journal. 

Once inside, we were met by friendly staff and faculty who greeted each attendee with a choice to either sit at any of the marked eight-top tables or, "if you would like, you may sit at one particular table with an author of your choice."  How grand!  "Who would you like to sit with?" she asked, clipboard in hand with names and numbers listed in neat rows.  "Well, I am working on non-fiction memoir"  "Well then, you may elect to sit with Gretel Erlich, she is here at table 12"  How convenient.  Among the 22 or so tables, table 12 was to my left. 

This was like a first date.  I even carefully chose my garb.. Dark jeans, low at the waist, my favorite comfortable hiking boots, a t-shirt with a tasteful, pink long sleeve polo, untucked.  A little shabby chick or just mid forties comfortable.. Whatever.. it was better than wearing my police uniform work pants, a black t-shirt and my army style black work boots..

The table and room filled quickly and we soon went around the table with greetings including, "wherefroms and whatareyouworkingons" and besides all working on non-fiction, we were from varying areas.  One all the way from Virginia!!  Wonderful, I was born there.  We all chatted, attempting to hear ourselves and each other over the mix of similar conversation in the room.  So far the first date was going well and I felt remarkably comfortable, open and as usual, very talkative. 

The welcome remarks came from Peter Turchi and set the stage for the atmosphere I anxiously awaited.  Imagine, a room filled to the brim; about 185 in all, women outnumbering men 3/1 and varying age ranges from maybe 25 to 65, all here in various transitions in their craft of writing.  A defying struggle to do what many and most cannot: take a person somewhere they have never been through the magic of words. 

Dinner was served and the wine, yes Wine, flowed.  Gretel, a gritty, down to earth, welcoming soul, put it perfectly when our young server inquired,
"More wine?"
"More wine?  I am writer, of course, more wine!" 
We had a great laugh after that as we chatted the dinner time away with sharing of stories, travels and challenges to get the written word to transcend into reality.  It was wonderful. 

Readings followed dinner.  Lovely.  Each author was introduced by MFA students and represented the school and MFA program well.  And to think I say all this as a University of Arizona graduate!!! Yes, I am a Wildcat, on Sparky territory.............. shhhhhh

The evening ended with handshakes, nods of heads, wine in the blood and motivation in the bones.  Gretel was gracious enough to open her Master's Class to me however I had not pre-registered.  We promised to meet and chat more later. 

I met wonderful people, survived an almost missed opportunity and battled the guilt for wanting to take a moment to go my selfish way.  I took the train home and recalled what I learned and joyfully wrapped my arms around my family, happy to say;

"You know what, for a first date, this was WONDERFUL!!" 
More tomorrow!

Please be kind on my typos, glaring errors or any obvious mistakes in this post.. It is now 12:05 pm.  I am late, have my sandwich next to me, untouched and I am in a hurry!! Don't want to miss too much!!!

Counting Down to the Desert Nights Rising Stars Writer's Conference!

Well, only a couple of days to go and as you can see, I have been "playing" with my blog.  I have literally been learning as I go and I do hope I have not frustrated anyone else as much as I have frustrated myself. 

I have been stealing some moments away to search my "writer within" and have been so overwhelmed with school, work, home and my blog template, my creative side has been supressed.  I will be taking a moment or two to just relax, open a good book (just got another yesterday....Flannery O'Connor) and breathe...

I have this fear something may happen and mommy duties will call me away from my time at the conference.  Keep your fingers crossed!!! 

Under Construction! Spring Cleaning for the Writer's Conference

I am still learning and am working on updating my look here.  Please be patient!  Getting ready for the Writer's Conference!!

The Mother Centurion is MINE. Powered by Blogger.

Categories and Lists

Total Pageviews


About Me

My photo
I figured things out late in life, like what I wanted to do, getting married (age 30), having kids, (36 and 38) and changing degrees about 3 times. Now as a cop of 19 years and in my mid 40's, I am finally figuring out some things. My first career or dream of becoming a writer is playing more in my head and daily life than ever. I love it. Thus the blog. It is all mine. I also love being a mother. They are all ours. I love my husband and as a cop, wow.. have I seen some things. Street degree. I got it. Let us learn together. I also am on She Writes.