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Rainforest Writers Village 2013: a wrap-up

Writing: More fun
Wednesday morning, I packed up the rental car, picked up mcjulie, and headed out to the Olympic Peninsula for the Rainforest Writers Village Retreat for 4.5 days of being nothing but a writer. Rainforest is held on the shores of Lake Quinault, and it's a beautiful location for getting away from it all. Or from most of it--whatever it may be. In this case, "it" is daily life, the day job, the kitties (whom I adore but who want attention at just the moments I don't have it to spare).

I started the retreat by journaling longhand, mostly about issues I've been dealing with around my writing. I journaled on and off throughout the retreat, and still have more that I want to do. I spend quite a bit of time here on LJ being reflective, but when it comes to my writing, I'm finding I need to keep those thoughts private and off the web. I want it to be just me and my pen moving across the page.

I wasn't sure what fiction I was going to work on during these days. Just as I was leaving, I received an invitation to write a story as part of a shared world anthology, so I decided I'd spend my time working up a proposal for the idea, send it along and, if it was approved, work on the story. Well, it was approved, so that's what I worked on. I have no illusions that acceptance is guaranteed. But the structure of having an assignment to work on gave me a framework for moving forward, so I grabbed it and ran with it. The work went pretty well, though with the typical ups and downs (this is a great idea; this is awful; I'm not a writer; maybe I am a writer; oh God, what the hell have I done?; no one will want to read this; hey, this isn't bad; well, maybe someone will want to read this. . . . and so on). In the end, I have most of the story in first draft, but need to finish writing the last two scenes.

In the meanwhile, I attended a couple of the scheduled talks and I participated in a panel discussion. My panel asked the question, "How literary should your commercial fiction be?" and we had writers and editors from across the spectrum speaking on the subject. We worked toward defining the difference between commercial and literary fiction; one remark that really stuck with me is Nancy Kress's insight that that commercial fiction is about resolution and the literary fiction is about resonance. The best fiction achieves both and is, therefore, both an elusive goal and one that, as writers, we ought to aspire to, whether or not we succeed. It was a good discussion. I don't know if we solved anyone's conundrum on the subject, but it got us all thinking and that, for itself, was worth the exercise.

I attended John Pitts' (that's bravado111 for the LJ literate) talk about imposter syndrome (something I know a little something about). His insights were sharp and instructive; he talked about the concept of trading up your problems each time you achieve a new level in your writing, and about how the self doubt we experience as writers never really stops, just manifests itself differently along the way. Smart guy.

I also attended jimvanpelt's talk, "Once is Accident; Twice is Plot" about repetition helping to build plot and theme, reinforce metaphor and motif, and create resonance. It was an excellent talk, for me the best discussion experience of the retreat. As illustration, he passed out copies of Bob Shaw's remarkable short story "The Light of Other Days" as an illustration of these ideas; the story blew me away and is an excellent example of a classic technique. Learning is often being reminded of what we already know; Jim did a great job reminding all of us about this key mechanic for creating effective fiction and I was grateful for his time and effort. And, boy, is he a good teacher! His students are fortunate to have him.

And then, of course, there was just a lot of quality time with quality people. I spent the best of my time with davidlevine, and got to visit well with Brenda Cooper, Rob Sawyer, Ace Jordyn, Barb Galler-Smith, Allan Rouselle, Manny Frishberg, and Louise Marley among so many others. I also met some new people, among them Gary B. Phillips and Stephen Merlino in particular. But the retreat was filled with marvelous people, terrific and insightful writers, and I reveled in the great talk and the good company.

What else did I do? I got to visit the world's largest sitka spruce. I attended Louise's excellent yoga classes in the mornings. (I really ought to do a little more of that--yoga, I mean.) I took pictures, all of which you can see at the Flickr set. I picked up a couple of books (John Scalzi's Redshirts and jimvanpelt's new collection of short stories, Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille). I walked, though not as much as I would have liked; it was simply too wet (see above re: rainforest). And while I had good meals with everyone, we did get over to the Lake Quinault Lodge with a terrific group for one meal:
Rainforest Lunch w? Brenda Cooper, Rob Sawyer, Louise Marley, Sherry Peters, Allex Tillson, me, David. D. Levine

At the final closing party, my name was drawn for a door prize, and I received a gift certificate to the resort gift shop. I used it to pick up an attractive rain forest souvenir hoodie (the first I've really ever owned) and a pair of silly socks with cats all over them. Yay!

Overall, I had a marvelous time and am so glad I was able to go on the trip. On the way home, mcjulie and i stopped at Shipwreck Beads, the Pacific Northwest's mecca for beaders and crafters, always a wonderful and overwhelming experience, where I picked up a gorgeous strand of banded agate that I will be stringing into a work-appropriate choker. It was a nice cap to the days away.

Now, my challenge is to maintain the momentum I created these last four days. I believe I can do it. I'm going to work to prove myself right!


( 2 notes — Leave a note )
Mar. 4th, 2013 07:06 pm (UTC)
This sounds absolutely wonderful.
Mar. 8th, 2013 03:08 am (UTC)
( 2 notes — Leave a note )


Good girls go to heaven.
Bad girls go everywhere.
--Mae West


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