Revision Boot Camp

Upon arrival, I assisted the instructor in the room set up, moving tables and chairs to facilitate the workshop atmosphere. Set up is very important. I spent a lot of time staring at desks and tables in my day, knowing that the feng shui could make or break me.

Boot Camp is a cross between straight lecture and the writer’s workshop style I was weaned on as an undergrad at Iowa. I have experienced writing courses both ways and prefer the semi-open to the lecture or the free-for -all that a workshop can become under a less than prepared instructor (or just a simply sadistic one). I don’t believe in the competition theory. A writer’s only competition is him/herself when it gets down to it. There is no need for winnowing.

We deconstructed first lines. I went back and forth as far as my interest in the exercise went. At one point I was keenly aware that what makes me a very good teacher impedes me from truly losing myself in the whole “grasshopper” experience. I will blame most of my weariness with the first exercises on actual weariness. I am still living amid reconstruction in my own home as the upstairs is still asunder, and I will own up to not having patience enough to truly listen to others when I am chomping to get going on a project. I wanted to dive in and I forget that I might be the only other person in the room with the English know-of to skip to the more challenging routines.

A plus note here, as an aside, I was affirmed in my suspicions that I have outgrown the generic writing group. Every person in the Boot Camp has a project and is committed to the pursuit of publication. There were no poets. I almost laughed when one woman introduced herself and mentioned as an afterthought that she’d had some poetry published and then literally waved it aside with her hand as if it hardly mattered at all. 

I also realized that I don’t just “think” I am a writer. I am a writer. Being among others of my kind and having discussions about structure, layer, texture and words confirms it and lifts me up spiritually. 

I tried to sit back and absorb but find myself jumping into the conversation though I am curbing my tendency to interrupt (I am like a man sometimes). I worry that when I am expounding I am exposing myself as a fraud. I remember feeling that way all the time when I was teaching. Almost right up until I quit two years ago although by then I didn’t care enough to worry if I was showing my idiot side (I wasn’t. I was good which is sad because being good kept me in the profession too long.)

On the second day, I spoke up even more. I apologized just once for jumping in to clarify a point of the teaching of the subjunctive in the writing process. The instructor graciously let it pass saying it “was okay” and that she wanted the discussions to evolve. Perhaps it was. She is a multi-published author who has sat on literary panels, but we are all just writers around the table. I am grateful she is not the “shut up and listen while I impart my vast wisdom to you” type.

We shared our first lines and put them through paces. Despite what my blogging looks like at times, I do enjoy revision and I have an instinct for editing that, while it isn’t as exacting as Rob’s or Silver’s, is usually right on.

Writing isn’t a carved in stone thing. Even God only did that once as the various holy books of the world are a testament to the fact that he allowed a substantial amount of reworking of his ideas.

Generally the feedback on the novel has been good , but I see now that there is more work to be done than I had originally thought if I want it to be more than just a horror/thriller. Surface novels are fine, but after the third day – when we discussed theme – I realized that I have layered that into the work without realizing. Now that it is clear to me I should capitalize on it.

I am think about changing the titles from Night Dogs to Sundogs at Night or something like that. The first was only ever a working title and I like the imagery of the second.

Anyway, work to be done. I have a rant to send off to the Edmonton Journal about Bill 44. It’s like I woke up back in the States yesterday with its thought police and religious right.

10 thoughts on “Revision Boot Camp

    1. Bill 44 allows parents to pull kids out of classrooms if sexuality, religion or sexual orientation is being discussed – which they already have the right to do under the School Act. But it takes it a step further in that it makes it a human rights violation if the parents don’t know about something in advance which can be tricky if a class discussion suddenly takes a non-teacher planned turn. I’ve had that happen and it is a more common occurrence with older students.

      So, in essence, teachers can now by charged with human rights crimes – which it hardly is. One of the things I love about schools here is the openness. Baby’s teachers talk about religion – in all the many incarnations it takes – and are very age appropriate with issues like sex and orientation. It’s not like in Iowa, where I taught, and we were handcuffed on those subjects when they came up. Believe me, very few teachers willing step into any of those subjects on a whim or with the idea to indoctrinate. I would rather my child be exposed and learn to make up her own mind than have others decide what she shouldn’t and should have access to or knowledge about.

      Christmas is Christmas here. They sing carols. Easter is a national holiday. But on the flip side, all other religions are woven into the kids studies too. Same sex couples are recognized by the government and afforded the same rights and kids grow up knowing that. They get the right information about sex. Not the scare tactic version or an incomplete version that doesn’t allow them to learn and choose (’cause that is what an education is ultimately for).

      The worst thing is that the Conservatives are saying the Bill 44 has the support of a “silent majority” which is such a right-wing American peer pressure tactic I almost gagged.

  1. Great Blog Annie – I get a good sense of what it was like to be there. I like “Sundogs at Night”.

    Where are you taking the course??

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