Wine and Cheese

Whenever ever I go to a workshop or reading series, I always feel like a bit of a fraud. Despite all my publications and experience, I feel out of place. Why? I don’t like wine. The only thing that has more associations with the literary crowds than wine is cats. At least I have two of those. However, readings always seem to have wine and cheese receptions. I do like cheese, but eating sometimes dry cheese without any liquid to wash it down isn’t really the most fun thing to do. And if by chance there is another beverage to drink (which is not always the case), I feel out of place with my obvious cup filled with water or a soft drink.

I was recently at the Writers in Paradise workshop that had nightly readings and yes, a wine and cheese reception before each reading (which were all wonderful). I would take a cup and go fill it at the drinking fountain. Now this was called Writers in Paradise. What about having a piña colada and cheese reception? That I would be in for. I’d even go back for refills!

Writers in Paradise 2015

I just got back from a week long writing workshop at the Eckerd College Writers in Paradise writing workshop. I was studying YA literature with David Yoo. We spent the week critiquing each others’ manuscripts (and they were all quite good) and attending readings in the evenings. (There were craft lectures too but at this point in my career, I would like to think I know something about craft. 😉 ) It was a great week.

Now you may ask, why did I pay to go do something that I usually an paid to do myself? First, while I have published in many fields, I have not specifically published or specialized in Young Adult. I wanted to immerse myself in this genre for personal education as well as to bring that knowledge back to my students in the fall. This was a great way to do that. I learned a lot from David and I am going to blatantly steal some of his exercises for the class I plan on teaching next fall. David was a great instructor, personable and friendly while still being critical and helpful.

Second, I think it is important for me as a teacher to become a student again. So at least once every seven years, (on sabbatical so I am still being paid to do it!) I become the student again to remind myself what it is like to be the one being critiqued. I also like to see other teaching techniques. As mentioned before, I will be stealing blatantly from David.

Third, I met a wonderful group of fellow writers. Offering critiques to this group was easy given the high quality of the writing and the willingness to listen to constructive criticism. We laughed and we learned. That’s always a good combination.

So, if you looking for a good writing workshop, I highly recommend the Writers in Paradise workshop. It also doesn’t hurt for us snowbelt residents to go to Florida in January. 🙂

The Character’s Bedroom

I am currently at a writing workshop any my YA story, “Rabbits” was workshopped yesterday. Our instructor, David Yoo, gave an assignment to the class to write a paragraph that describes the character’s bed room. So I thought I would do it here.

Paul walked into his bedroom and flopped onto the bottom bunk, staring up at the springs holding the mattress above. He used to share the room with his older brother, now married. Instead of sleeping up there, it now held the stuffed animals of his childhood, the ones he didn’t wan to get rid of just yet. He turned on the lamp clamped to the bed post and picked up the Batman comic book that had been lying on the floor. He had already read it several times, but that usually didn’t matter. He just flipped through it, trying to get lost in the colors and the action. He day-dreamed a little about being a side-kick, a Robin to his own super-hero. That kept him occupied for about twenty-minutes before he threw the comic back on the floor.

Since he was the youngest, it was the smallest of the four bedrooms, on the east side of the house. Now, in the late afternoon, the room was filled with shadows. He spent as little time in here as he could, preferring the living room with he noise of the TV. But if he wanted to avoid his father, he hid in his room.

Brief Theatre Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

While I was co-leading a student trip to London over winter break, I was able to see the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, based on the novel by the same name. I will admit that I haven’t read the novel, but I really enjoyed the play.

The play is about a teenager who is somewhere along the autism spectrum. It starts with him finding his neighbor’s dog, killed with a garden fork. He then sets out to find out who killed the dog. He uncovers more information than he was expecting.

The set for the play was amazing. One of my students thought it was going to be Tron. But the director uses the staging craftily, with the high used only for emotional effect instead of simple spectacle.

The acting was superb, especially the performance of Graham Butler who plays the lead of Christopher Boone. (And Mr. Butler stood outside the stage door when the play was over and signed one of our student’s program.)

I did think the first half of the play was stronger. It ends with Christopher finding out what happened to the dog. The second half wasn’t quite as compelling, but overall, it was a good experience. (And trust me, I’ve seen some bad ones in London, Lord of the Rings for example.)