For the past two weeks, I’ve been struggling with how to write about my experience in the writing master class I took in Oregon.
Grueling, exhausting. Life changing, transformative.
Other than childbirth, it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I know my writing and writing career changed forever the minute I committed to the process.
This is where I get stumped. Where to start? Do I try to describe the schedule? It was basically boot-camp style – I kid you not. Daily classes from 10 am – 1:30 or 2 pm. Go work on assignments. Eat. Classes from 7 pm to 11 or later. Go work on assignments. To bed between 1:30 (really, really early) and 4 am. Get up by 8:30. Shower, shake the cobwebs off. Have breakfast and start all over again. Fourteen days solid.
Do I talk about the technique and style & content exercises we did to improve craft and to study writing genius on a daily basis? Do I talk about the short stories we wrote that stretched every single one of us so far and hard that we can never look at ourselves in the same way again? Have you ever written a 10,000+-word story in less than 72 hours while going to at least 8 hours of classes daily and having other assignments as well? What about the anthology we had to create with stories we – and former class participants – wrote? We were given a word count, budget and payment guidelines and three days to go through more than 100 stories to create a table of contents and then be able to defend the decisions we made. Boy, does that give a person perspective on an editor’s life.
Do I discuss the overwhelming amount of information we got on business – how to read contracts, copyright; the history of the publishing industry; the game we “played” that simulates the life of a writer over the course of 8 years—complete with bad and good life events, books and short stories sold; the lectures on strategies to really earn a living; the cautions about shooting yourself in the foot? Do I talk about the pitches and proposals we wrote for new novels (I hadn’t gone to the class with any ideas and came back with many viable ones)—sometimes several a day?
Do I try to recount all the myths about craft and business that we writers live with and promote . . . and the way the instructors blasted so many I can’t even begin to remember them all?
Do I spend hours pouring over the two full notebooks of notes I took to try to give a hint of everything that we did and learned during those fourteen days?
The problem is, I’m still stunned. Really.
The instructors told us it would take months before we realized some of what we learned, that years later we’d be surprised with the insights we’d acquired without realizing.
So . . .
Here I stand. Altered. And unsure just how deep those lessons went in.
Before I stop this lengthy host, please indulge me. I want to give a shout out to the Kip, Misty, Amy and the others at the Anchor Inn in Lincoln City. If you want a writer-friendly place to stay, go there. Just go.
Now for the main instructors: Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Rusch, Loren L. Coleman, Phaedra Weldon, Christina York, Shelly McArthur (Yes! Shelly from the Mystery Bookstore in LA; he’s landed in Lincoln City and has a wonderful bookstore there: North by Northwest), Ginjer Buchanan, John Douglas (there were also several local writers who helped with the class and served as acquiring editors for our pitches in the game; I’m sorry I don’t know all of their names.)
And watch for books and short stories from my fellow classmates who are among the most dedicated and talented writers I know: Mike Jasper, Susan Wingate, Darren Eggett, Kamila Miller, Bob Sojka, Carolyn Nicita, Jane Killick, Ryan Williams, Thea Hutcheson, Paul Tseng, Michael Bellomo, Mario Milosevic, Brenda Carre.
Today my question to you is simple: Have you ever attended an intensive class or workshop that left you altered for life?