Field Notes from Boot Camp

GroupphotoI’m tougher, stronger, and better from my week in Greensboro, North Carolina.

It was hard, but good.

The five-hour flight into Atlanta followed by a five-hour drive up to Greensboro, NC was no picnic with my 11-month-old son in tow, but we survived! I managed to fold up my wallet into George’s stroller, and then shove the whole think in the trunk of my rental. What followed was, off course, a near panic attack as I realized my wallet was missing.

Hilary, George and I stop for gas

Hilary, George and I stop for gas

My friend, Hilary, who traveled this entire way just to help care for George, was and is a trooper and an angel. And after this whole trip had finished, she made it clear that she still loved both me and my son. Talk about a miracle!

Also, it was Hilary who found my wallet.

Lunch time for George

Lunch time for George

On our road trip north, each time we stopped it was a milestone and a small victory. *Trumpet blares* We made it to the grocery store! *Wild fanfare* We made it to the gas station!

Or, even better–*Standing Ovation* George fell asleep! Don’t stop driving till he opens his eyes!

We arrived at the Greensboro Sheraton around midnight local time and did our best to collapse and catch what sleep we could before the next day started. George couldn’t quite manage to do this, so we had short sleep interrupted by a distressed baby.

Dinner at OSC's house

Dinner at OSC’s house

He did not sleep well the entire trip. I remember, blearily, one evening when Hilary picked up George and calmed him by singing him the theme to Pan’s Labyrinth. I love that song. It soothed everyone in the room that night.

The first two days of boot camp were jammed with good information. Based on Orson Scott Card’s Characters and Viewpoint, we spent two days understanding how to build characters, ask ourselves good questions while we design our stories, and create a believable and authentic point of view to use for our narrative. But, ahem, don’t let me geek out on you. It was intense.

Boot Campers 2014

Boot Campers 2014

After the first two days, Boot Camp officially began. We took this third day to write a brand new short story and turn it in to be critiqued by the rest of the group. Talk about nerve-wracking. No second-guessing, no musing, just get an idea and write it down! Orson Scott Card’s instructions: “These are the rules. Your story must have an end. Other than that, make it clear. Don’t make it beautiful or artistic. Make it clear.”

I enjoyed having this time limit and having to finish so quickly. I felt good about my piece. I researched motorcycles because I knew my character would be using one to take a road trip. I wrote and wrote and ate and nursed George and wrote and wrote and read it over only once and then the time was up. I sent it in. Oh yeah, and then I started reading homework for the next day.

View from my workshop seat

View from my workshop seat

We boot campers had eleven stories from the other writers to read and critique. We were in sessions all day together, working through the stories, discussing subjects that arose (and we covered everything from sex to politics to using cuss words in these discussions), and then in the evening we read the next batch of stories until our eyes nearly fell out of our heads.

Dinner with Boot Campers on our last night

Dinner with Boot Campers on our last night

I snatched a few breaks to have dinner with George and Hilary, and to swim in the hotel’s lovely pool. Orson Scott Card hosted us one night at his house for dinner. It was a huge honor to be there, to sit in his kitchen, to hug his wife as I left. He is a good, kind, humble and very talented man. I can’t say enough how happy I am to have been able to learn from him for a week.

One thing that real

George hanging out with the luggage

George hanging out with the luggage

ly struck me, is that even though he is a well-published author with books that have won awards and experienced fantastic sales, he still admits the mistakes he’s made–from beginner mistakes when he was just starting to publish to recent mistakes. He does not pose as someone who “always does it right” and this makes it so much easier to learn from and admire him. Because he shows us that he’s still growing as an author.

OSC and me!

OSC and me!

I can’t end this without saying more one more huge THANK YOU to the friends and family who helped send me on this adventure. You guys rock! Thank you for making this a reality!

 

If you have specific questions about my Literary Boot Camp experience, ask away!

About Elise

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. Her novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), Forecast (2013), and Guardian of the Gold Breathers (2015), a finalist for the INDIEFAB Book of the Year. She lives in Seattle with her family. Follow her on Twitter @elisestephens and Author Elise Stephens on Facebook.

Comments

Field Notes from Boot Camp — 8 Comments

  1. I have TONS of questions… But I have no vocabulary to ask them. And they probably all center around geeking out over Speaker for the Dead. I’m so glad you were able to have this experience!

    • It’s so funny, getting to learn the stories behind the writing of the books. Well, anytime you think of a question, you can ask it. Thanks, Amy!

  2. The picture of George in the trunk freaks me out!! Please, please next time don’t leave him in the refrigerator!!

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