Whidbey

Hunkering down

And now, for something completely different:

What is that? It’s my office wall, and it’s also something I’ve never tried before. It’s outlining. [Please ignore the fugly wood paneling. It is not my fault and soon I will be painting it something else, since my life has become a DIY show.]

Here’s a close-up:

On each of the yellow index cards is a full scene. On each of the white, is, dur, the MC’s location at that point in the book. My thesis adviser thinks this is going to be a one-month draft. I think, okay, I’m game for that.

And the other part of me thinks, oh, hell, it’d better be a one-month draft. Otherwise I’m might close to deadline.

So let’s just see how this goes, shall we? Two scenes a day. Let’s just see.

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

The People in My Neighborhood: MFAland

I love sport. I love doing it, training for it. I love introducing friends to it.

I love race day. I love the pre-race energy; I love the random camaraderie that springs up on the course. (People ask how you’re doing; people help each other with transition areas; people give each other race food or water when a hard bonk happens.)

I love most of all watching people I know and care about cross the finish line.

I love writing. I love the process. I am learning about the craft. I love the hours when I am in the moment and banging out something I care about.

I love encouraging people to find their voices. I love watching a writer use his voice effectively, when he finally finds it. I love seeing people I know and care about publish the work they’ve worked over and over until this phrase, or that, linchpins the whole thing together.

This past February a Whidbey MFA graduate posted that there was a triathlon the day before residency, and would some of us like to do it with her? Several of us signed up. Hell, we thought, we don’t have a football team, why not do a triathlon together?

So we did it.

I didn’t come to MFAland to make friends. I came because something was or is inherently broken in my writing, and because I needed motivation. I know all too well that when your critique partners become your friends, or when you ask friends to be your critique group, you might run into problems.

But as I watched people I know and now love cross the finish line, and as we celebrated a classmate’s first-ever publication last semester, and as I goggled at the numbers of fellow MFA students and staff who were not racing but who came to cheer and feed us beer and cheese after, and as we mourned the death of a classmate’s brother and another classmate’s close friend, something clicked: You cannot embark on things you love, and invite people in, and not make friends.

 

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

7×7=one grateful blogger

Awhile ago, my Whidbey colleague Charlotte Morganti nominated me for a 7×7 link award! I wish I knew what the origins of this award was, but more important, I’m just happy that I’m getting an award! It’s my first!

Also, one thing about Charlotte, before I go on to the requirements of the award–she’s by far the most diligent blogger I’ve ever come across. She decided she was going to start a blog, and then, bang! She’s been keeping it up, regularly, with great writing tips and interviews with luminaries like Alan Rinzler. She also does great book reviews, and is the author of an as-yet-to-be-published hardboiled detective novel in the vein of Dashiell Hammett. So yes, you must follow her blog doings.

Now. On to this award. I must do several things in order to account for this award. I must list seven items in each of three category.

First, seven things about me you probably don’t know:

  • I don’t like very spicy food. That is to say, I don’t like things that flame your nasal hairs out and make you sweat. I’m much more apt to buy a mild tomatillo salsa than I am an “extra hot” salsa, for instance.
  • I am a sucker for the American Standards songbook.
  • I can’t dance.
  • I struggle with my weight. Part of this is my inherent laziness. The other part of it is my love/hate relationship with exercise. The final part of it is genetics.
  • I think everyone should have their own personal style. This is not to be confused with trendiness.
  • I adore button-down shirts and in general prefer neat dressing to slovenliness.
  • I love to cook. And I prefer to do it with friends in the kitchen or nearby.

Now, 7 posts from my own blog that I like:

  • Chris Hondros, in Memoriam: Chris was the photographer for one of my first-ever feature articles. He died in Libya almost a year ago.
  • Book Review: Moonlight Mile, by Dennis Lehane: I write book reviews at my site every once in awhile, but I like this one because it deals with something I think is super important in books–characters one can identify with. Also, it gave me a chance to write a bit of a love letter to Dennis Lehane’s characters. And okay, maybe Lehane himself. 🙂
  • Speaking the Gospel: This is a brief roundup on why everyone should try public speaking. I almost never write posts about business, but this is one of those things that I’m both good at and that I feel strongly about, so I did this one. It’s just a list of reasons everyone should love to speak publicly. And yes, you read that right.
  • Iron Girl, Iron Guy, and the Iron Maiden, Part I and II: This is the story of our Ironman competition. We trained for six months and had a blast, and I’d readily do it again. I loved this race. It was awesome. (Yes, yes, okay, in retrospect.)
  • A Phone Conversation: This is exactly what it is, a phone conversation between me and Mr. Gooddirt. I think it’s hilarious. It pretty much pegs Mr. Gooddirt.
  • Track Rats: This is part of a series I’m writing called “The People in My Neighborhood.” It’s about the folks who populate my life. This one is about the people who first really made me feel like I was a part of my physical neighborhood.
  • An Open Letter to Do-Gooders: I’ve deployed to Haiti twice as part of the ShelterBox Response Team. While I was there I noticed a few things. This letter is obviously not from ShelterBox itself, but it’s my perspective of what people who really want to help in a disaster situation should and shouldn’t do.

Phew. That was hard. This next one will be easier. 7 blogs I like, and, in turn, pass the 7×7 award on to:

  • GrassDirtCorn. My friend Hollie Butler is very special to me. I’ve known her since I was 18. We were camp counselors together. And we used to write letters. Now Hollie tackles some good things–and not-so-good things–in her blog on food, health, and general life. I love it.
  • DaphneUnfeasible. My friend Kate Schafer is a great literary agent. And she has good, important things to tell writers, on her blog.
  • ChelsKnorr. My friend Chels Knorr just started her blog. She’s off to a bang-up start. I think what she has to say is intriguing. I think the way she says it is beguiling. G’wan, take a gander.
  • Manhattan Nest. I’ve just started reading this one. I almost never have patience with blog posts that are this long, but I love Dan’s sensitivities and his design sense. So he’s hooked me. If you like mid-century design–or design at all–you need to take a look at this.
  • The Sherman Foundation. Thomas Sherman makes great, pithy remarks about things that matter to me–art and design and marketing. I appreciate his respect of my time and attention span, but more important, I respect his wide-ranging definition of design.
  • Harvey Briggs. Harvey’s been involved in advertising everything from cars to pantyhose. I can’t remember how I found him, but I’m thrilled I did. Another master of pithy copy, Harvey often points me to really interesting advertisements, but more important, he has interesting, commentary-provoking things to say. Every. Single. Day.
  • Kate Gale. Is a librettist, an editor, a smart, smart woman, and a wicked conversationalist. Again, short, loads-of-fun commentary. Well worth a peek.
  • Nancy Norton. I’ve written about Nancy before, but I think you should go over and take a peek at her blog. She spends part of the year near Toulouse, France, and aside from the part of me that’s an inveterate francophile, I’m always amazed at the things Nancy ends up doing and seeing–and sharing with us.

Okay. That’s it from me. Thanks to the blogosphere in general for this, and, more specifically, thanks to Miss Morganti.

 

 

 

 

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

Holy caca

I have an incredible backlog of posts to write, but I’m at SeaTac now, and my brain is still buzzing buzzing with ideas and MFA stuff. I’m waiting for my usual lovely 11:36 PM flight to Dulles and then home to HPN, and I’m thankful for the extra time to just sit in a place with no emotions and personality whatsoever, so I can jot down some of the great people we met and the things we learned from them. We even got to have dinner together, Chels, Stefon, and I, before Stefon dropped me off at the airport in plenty of time to find a check in, get a brainless book at the bookstore, window shop a bit. Now I have about an hour to mellow out and process.

I love this flight for this reason. Red eyes are not my favorite, but this one gives me solid time to be alone for awhile, listen to some music (Coleman Hawkins at the moment), and try to make sense of it all.

It was by far the best residency ever. Not only do I feel settled in as a student, now (it’s my last full semester, if I can get my thesis pulled off), we had an incredible list of writers, editors, and agents come trooping through our doors to offer us lots of good nuggets of useful information that I can put to use in my work soon.

Among these were, in order of appearance:

Alan Rinzler. Alan is the editor of such writers as Joseph Hellerman, Norman Mailor, Toni Morrison, Claude Brown…eurgh. The list goes on. He is a gentle soul of infinite proportions and equal wisdom. I have a lot to learn from him, and I’m looking forward to continued correspondence, even if via such far-away venues as his ‘blog, on which he posts great editorial tips and tricks–and, occassionally weighs in on things like social marketing for writers. Lovely.

My colleague Charlotte Morganti spent an hour with Alan distilling some of what he taught us. Her interview is up at her blog.

Deb Lund. Deb is appearing early in this list even if she was one of our very last presenters. This is because Deb cared enough to show up early in the week and get to know us. It’s true, she does live on Whidbey Island, and so it was “easy” for her, but she was kind and lovely and she became a part of our campus very easily.

Deb is the author of some fun fun fun fun! picture books, but she is also the originator of some really effective writing tricks for writers, including those of us not working on picture books. The last day of residency is always a critical day because we have had nine days of lectures and we are up to the gills with information and learning. Still, she managed to keep us all excited and writing, and creating even when we thought it’d be impossible. Fantastic.

Lauri McLean. Laurie is an agent at Larsen-Pomada, San Francisco’s oldest literary agency. (I think.) More important, she truly understands writers. Even more important, she is of the same mind as me when we think of marketing. In fact, I asked Laurie within minutes of meeting her to sit in on the class I held at Whidbey this residency. What a treat. We have some upcoming things going on together, so I am assured I’ll get to see her again–this makes me very, very happy. It’s so nice to meet someone of like mind! I’ll never get tired of it.

Melissa Manlove. Melissa is a children’s book editor. I’ve yet to meet one I don’t like. But this one…this one…well. let’s put it this way: Randomly, Stefon and I broke out into the theme song from the Muppets over lunch. Melissa pitched right in. And she knew all the words. This was right after Stefon, Chels, Melissa and I finished drafting the storyboard for our soon-to-be-award-winning children’s picture book, Are You My Hostage? It is a charming coming-of-age story about a bumbling bank robber who must find his way in the complicated world of larceny. Along the way, he discovers his hostage’s favorite food; that he really mustn’t bring his laundry to a robbery, and other truths.

Hunh! Oh, and the editing thing: Melissa is a really, really good editor. She understands stories. She had good ways to get to the heart of them. She makes me want to get to know my characters better.

Cheston Knapp. It is so rare that one gets to invite the managing editor of a fine literary magazine over for Scotch. Rarer still that he stays until 1AM, talking about everything from floppy hair to glossy crackers that only look inedible. There is talk about books and work and general happiness and suddenly the entire bottle of Scotch is gone, and it is time for bed. Lovely, especially in the company of other smart writers, who also happen to be friends.

And that doesn’t even include my regular faculty, or any of the other fantastic writers studying with me.

Often when I return I am incapable of much of anything. Tomorrow I will return home to an empty apartment, and I will be lonely, at least until Jim comes home at 5 or so, but I will snap on the TV and watch some classic films and talk myself off the ledge of wanting to dedicate my entire life to being a crazed solitary writer, if only because a girl must eat and a girl likes to be social.

But sitting here, alone but not alone, it is easy to think that I can take what I learned from this past residency and eat from it and only it until I pop, and I’d probably have some fine, fine work when I was done, and that that would be enough to sustain me for a very, very long time.

*Yawn.* I’m going to read something new now.

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

A New Way of Seeing

Wow, am I cranky. Peeps, I am so cranky I can hardly believe it. I think I would be lying if I said I don’t know why, so I’ll just try to talk you through it.

1. I am scheduled to do a half-marathon on trail October 2. That’s this weekend, and I have been looking forward to it for a long time now.

2. I have been plagued by injury.

3. Now we are less than a week before the race, and although I know I won’t have a problem completing the race, I’m now in a position where I don’t feel like I can log in anymore miles because I’m terrified of hurting myself before the race. (This is because the last injury was two weeks ago, when I pulled a heretofore-unknown muscle in my pelvis during a routine speed workout.)

4. Therefore, although I’ve been undertaking normal activities, and some not so normal, like tottering around in 3.5-inch heels to and from dinner and a Baptism and walking around Manhattan in a pair of not-smart sandals that obviously hve lost their cushioning, I have not been working out, and my body is PISSED.

5. Therefore, I am pissed. But still cautious about hurting myself before the race.

This is a ridiculous, self-fulfilling prophecy. So I am ignoring it, and trying to alleviate The Cranky.

Today I want to talk to you about art. This past weekend we had some friends in town from Chicago, and we visited both the Neue Galerie and The Met, and the following day we walked over the Hudson River on the Walkway and then went to the FDR Presidential Home and Library. Then we had dinner at the Culinary Institute of America, from which Jim’s father graduated.  If that seems like a lot of culture, it was, but it was also full of art in all its aspects: natural, historical, visual, and culinary.

I did not have my camera with me, and my Blackberry has decided it Does Not Want to Take Photos anymore, so I had to rely on others for those. (This, incidentally, is another reason for The Cranky.) But this is a good opportunity for me to share with you my latest endeavor, which is to be a better recorder of life through not only words and type, but also visual arts.

Some of you may remember that I took some art lessons awhile back. This is me and my art instructor, Jan Cianflone:

We are on her porch, the last day of my art lesson, just before I went to Whidbey. Towards the end our lessons took place en plein air.

Jan ran me through several different media. We started with pencil and charcoal and spherical objects. Here’s a photo of some eggs:

And here’s the chiaroscuro charcoal I did of those same eggs:

We also did some gesture drawings, which I really enjoyed, from magazine pages. Fashion magazines are good for these, since the models tend to be lanky and long and the shoots tend to be of exaggerated poses. I wish I still had the actual page this came from. This is a 3-minute gesture drawing.

From there we moved into pencil washes. I really enjoyed working with the more suggestive lines of these, as opposed to the more definitive lines of plain pencil.

and then we moved into pen-and-ink, which I really loved, but only in this one case, because, as it turns out, you can’t mix color as well in these big markers as you can in something like watercolor. Although, I did love the broad stroke of the pens…

We did some drawing from life of my favorite hairy subject. (I call this the Grandma-Moses Sprocket.)

And from there, I was on my own. It was a remarkable six weeks, and although I’m still experimenting and learning, here are some of the results:

The Whidbey dock. I’m not happy with this drawing. I love the loose evocation of the trees at the top of the drawing, but I’ve really done a hack job on the dock, which looks cartoony and stiff. I know a lot of this is me learning my own style, but it’s definitely frustrating to see something like this.

I drew it from life, but, for comparison, at an obviously different time of day, here’s a photo.

Later on in the week, I did this drawing, which is of a house that sits on the lagoon near where we had our afternoon classes. I got really lost in the grasses near the bottom of the drawing and just didn’t have the energies or the know-how or the artistic balls to try and complete the suggestion of river that ran along the lawn of the house.

On my way home from Whidbey, I tried to do a marker-and-ink drawing of an airplane at its gate. When I looked up again, the airplane had disappeared. Sigh.

Here’s my most recent drawing:

Personally, it’s my favorite. For comparison, here’s the photo:

I want to get to a point where I can suggest things better and allow the viewer to make their own interpretations. But i guess a girl has to start someplace.

There are many more drawings I want to do. I still haven’t covered my beloved city, or the lovely impressionistic photos of Seattle I took at night, when the iPad camera will only suggest light and glimmer. I think those will be next.

Ultimately, I hope the drawing will inform my writing. It’s only just now occurred to me, actually, that the protagonist in the novel I’m writing for my thesis is an artist. Lately, she and I haven’t been communicating very well, and my adviser has suggested that I spend the day in her shoes, so I’m doubly glad that I took lessons with Jan.

It’s always nice to have another way of seeing things.

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

the rest of my Whidbey photos, and a brain dump

So you know when your brain goes on overload, and you realize that you’d better download the stuff before your hard drive breaks and you lose all the stuff? That’s where I am now. I’ve been out in the big city twice in as many days, and although I’m most certainly not always at my best in the city, I am almost always awake and alert (“What’s a lert?”) and, perhaps worst of all, wide open to all the sights and sounds and input, and that’s, I think, why I’m overloaded.

Then, too, it’s a quarter to five in the morning, it’s raining, the porch door is open, the temperature is in the sixties…these are all things that make me percolate, which is good, because I have an essay due every fricken week for non-fiction class, and I’d better have stuff percolating.

Okay. First of all, here are some photos from my time in Seattle and Whidbey.
I got to see Hollie Butler for the first time in almost 15 years. Who is she? She is my friend from the one summer I spent as a camp counselor in Oregon. It was the first time I was ever able to say I had an amazing summer, and mean it. Sorry, Mom and Dad, but I learned so much that summer and experienced so many different things…some day I will write about that.

Hollie and I wrote letters back and forth for a little while. I think I may have gone to see her in Seattle when I went skiing at Whistler the following year, but I haven’t seen her since then, and that would have been 1994. Wow. (Some days, I really love Facebook for reconnecting me with people like Hollie.)

On the way there I saw these buildings, which I loved for their color and their lines. I guess they go into the “I took pictures of this cos I want to draw it later” category.

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I also got to see another old friend, from my advertising days. I think she might be one of my favorite people, in part because she and her husband are wise without being old. I love this about them. When Ina and I worked together, I learned so much from her. Ina has this view from her home office window. It also goes into the aforementioned category.

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Here are some snaps from Whidbey Island itself.

These are my friends Robert and Cynthia. Cyn has been my roommate from the first semester on. We were all housemates this semester. Good fun!

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Here’s another snap I’d like to try my hand at, except the colors are kind of intimidating.

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Here’s one I did try my hand at, and that’s both material for another post and probably an essay on how taking drawing classes has made me a better writer.

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Here’s Cyn, reading her work. We do student readings at Whidbey. That absolutely makes us better writers.

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Here’s Grier’s dog, Popeye. People, do you understand how much of a difference having a dog around makes? A lot. (Also material for another essay.)

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I’ll close with this freakishly Monet-like scene, which was what we saw ever day during our afternoon classes. This one I won’t be trying to draw. Frankly, Monet already did it.

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Next post, a breakdown of the drawing lessons. Or maybe a rundown of these two days in the city, which have given me a lot to think about, all by themselves.

And oh, here’s a gratuitous Sprocket photo.

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Do you think I can squeeze in a nap before the day begins? Or should I watch some more BBC mysteries on Netflix?

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

A Lot Happens in a Month

…Although, really, it’s been a month and a half.
This is the first time I’ve ever blogged from my iPad, although I’ve had one now since February. I think I imagined myself doing a lot more in terms of blogging while mobile, especially given all of the wonderful things I saw and experienced while I was on Whidbey Island for my MFA course.
I’m going to try and insert some photos here while I’m at it, although that may ultimately prove to be a failure. Here, let’s try one now.
Nope, that didn’t work. What a bummer.
These past ten days were incredibly hard. I had some very interesting experiences, although really what strikes me is how drained I feel. potentially it comes from having been “on” the entire time, but I’m more inclined to believe it’s because I met so many awesome people and made, I hope, so many new friends that I am just feeling totally overwhelmed.
Since I can’t post photos, I’ll try to be visually interesting in other ways.
First, a list, of the awesome people I met and got to know better.
1. Ana Maria Spagna
Ana Maria is my nonfiction workshop instructor. Her advice is incisive, but her reading and reactions are all human. More often than not, the incision and the human reaction are on the same page. working with Ana Maria will make my fiction better, but her workshop is also part of the reason I am so tired. I think it has been a long time since I’ve had to examine my motives so deeply.
2. Marc Acito
Marc was the graduation speaker this year. His commentary was a riot, and his advice was every bit worth writing down. He’s passionate about his work, and I very much enjoyed his company while at residency. With that said, he lives in New York City now, so I’m hoping to see much more of him when we both return.
3. Kate Gale
Kate is the managing editor of Red Hen press. I have deep respect for her, and for the fact that she and my friend Steve and I dove right into a dizzyingly deep conversation on fiction within about two minutes of her sitting down. She’ll be in New York soon too for some readings, and I’m planning on seeing her soon.
4. Nancy Norton
Part-time Seattle-ite, part-time resident of a tiny village in France. Enough said. No, not really. What if I told you that Nancy’s just barely in her 60s and still one of the feistiest people I know? What if I told you that I can’t wait to see her when she pops into New York in a couple of weeks? Fantastic!
5. Ashia Lane
Classmate and instant–and I do mean full-on immediate–friend. we can’t stop laughing when we’re around each other. We get each other, right from the moment we met last residency. And this residency, I got to take advantage of Ashia’s sharp reading skills when I banged out some seriously half-assed garbage the day before our student reading. And Ashia was able to Diagnose The Problem. And prescribe some fixes. Brilliant.

Okay. They’re calling my flight to board. and my foot is going numb. More tomorrow. With pictures. Yay!

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

Port-au-Prince to Coupeville: what lies between

It all comes down to left brain versus right brain.
I was shocked at just how exhausted I was coming back from my Master of Fine Arts residency at Whidbey Island. With some reservation, I noted that it might have actually been a more difficult recovery than those following deployment for ShelterBox, and I wondered why.
So I sat down and broke it down. (Okay, not really. What I did was to spend a couple of days mulling it over in my head, and then Gwen Bell posted something about writing 750 words a day for the month of September, so it’s September 1 and now I’m posting my thoughts. Because, you know, it’s useful to have external motivation, so on.)
When I come back from deployment I try and unpack, first thing. Who knows what creepy crawlies are lurking in my baggage? (My return from Taiwan yielded the largest squashed cockroach I’d ever seen in my life.) If I can’t be bothered to do the laundry I leave it all on the balcony.
Then I eat something incredibly indulgent. Ice cream, maybe, or potato chips. Something totally unreasonable to be carrying around in your pack. Soda pop is a good choice.
Then I turn on the boob tube. Typically it’s Turner Classic Movies. If I’m lucky I find some Rock Hudson/Doris Day flick, something I’ve seen before, and then I fall asleep on the couch. Eventually I crawl into bed and sleep for about 10 hours.
When I got back from Whidbey, it was almost all the same actions. Except my brain, my brain was on fricken fire. And that’s when I realized just how different the two events are, even if they share the concept of being on overload for 10 days.
Deployment is 100% action and logistics, all the time. You’re messing around, dealing with people, but not on any level other than cursory. There’s no room for emotion, no room for rumination. You think, you act, you fling tents and boxes and build stuff. Then you go home and crash, maybe process some stuff. That’s all left brain.

Building something like this is all left brain.

Whidbey Island? Whidbey Island was all right brain. Writers get to be writers because we think we have something to say. You spend all nine days at Whidbey immersed in words, your own and others, trying to make your words fit what you’re learning. You meet people that fire up little neurons in your head that then spawn more thoughts. You spend all of your time thinking, thinking, thinking about stuff that might not be immediately connected to your actions of going to class and writing papers, but at some point, some of that stuff starts to sink in, and you get even more excited because you can immediately find some way to apply what you’ve learned to your work.
You spend a lot of time thinking about yourself, and not in a navel-gazing, “what am I about?” kind of way. It’s more like an excavation of the stuff you didn’t remember coming to surface; and then there’s the added layer of worrying those events over; how you can express them in a pleasing manner that leaves room for more thought.
Everyone around you gives you something to think about. Every word out of someone’s mouth has the potential to give you something to work with.
It’s a pretty special nine days.
That’s the other part of why recovery was so hard–that kind of energy is hard to come by. I’ve written about this kind of energy before, where everyone in the room cares about just one end point. It happens in group events, like the AIDS Ride, where it was the end goal to get everyone from point A to point B on any given day. To a lesser extent it happens on deployments, where the whole point of your existence is to make sure people get out of the elements and into shelter, but even in that there are smaller more personal investments at play.
At Whidbey, everyone wants everyone else to publish. At graduation, the chairman of our board of directors said, “Your success is our success.” When only three people are graduating, and there are fewer than 50 people in the room, 35 of which are actual students, you know what? You believe that stuff. Whidbey has invested in you. Its future depends on your success. I believe it.

"Our success depends on you having your nose buried in a book all the time." Uh, okay!!!

Funny, though–before this experience, I’d come to believe that true exhaustion came from hard physical activity. This is the first time I’ve ever been so pooped from just thinking, although I did put in four morning runs during my time at Whidbey.
I think, too, that it was truly an amazing experience to sit up both late and early talking about literature. If I’d had any doubts at all that working with words is what I want to do with the rest of my life, 10 days at Whidbey would have knocked them clear out of the park.

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

Photos from Whidbey

My first indication that I'm not where I thought I was: a campaign sign on Whidbey Island

Between 11:10 and 12:30 I took my books down to the rocky beach and did homework. If I turned to face away from the ocean, this was my view.

And now, some up-close things I spotted on the beach. First, this cool infinity-shaped whorl on some driftwood.

The beach is mostly rocky. Almost every clustering of rocks is a mini still-life.

Sometimes I was reminded that there is life outside of reading, writing, new friends, and the rocky beach. This piece of driftwood was one such reminder.

Sometimes I spotted other writing students on the beach. Here, Nancy and Steve, on a rock-hunting expedition.

from the building that serves as our classrooms, you can see lots of ships going by. these huge cruise ships were a shock, though.

Fort Casey was built in 1897. Obviously, some of the buildings have disappeared. Ripe for ghost stories!

After my morning run, I met my roommate Cyn on our porch for coffee each morning. This is the view from our porch.

At 7:25 or so Stefon would walk by on his way to breakfast. (Cyn and I opted out.)

Sometimes Robert stopped by for coffee and a chat.

Here's what it felt like.

Some days it was too cold. Then we decamped to living room and pot-bellied stove fire.

We were fed quite well at Whidbey. Dessert every night if we wanted it. I am a sucker for bread pudding. Stefon thinks this is funny.

One evening we decided it would be a good idea to jump into Puget Sound. It must have been about 54 degrees in there. Not bad.

One day, Merone, Cyn and I went into town for lunch. I was enjoying mussels when I looked up and spotted this. I think my first coherent thought was "Oh, gross. Moose drool."

We took the ferry to get off of Whidbey and onto the mainland for the drive home. From left to right, Nancy, Stefon, Jackie, and Mandy. Until January, friends!

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