July 30, 2012

LLF DAY 2: Retreat to Move Forward

The second day, which was the first full day of the retreat, began with my roommate, Jef, taking what I estimate to be a 90 second shower in the morning. Come on, Jef, that's not even enough time for me to snoop though your stuff.

We made our way to the cafeteria for eggs and soysage and good conversation with other Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF) fellows.

Once the morning sessions began, Alex Sanchez, our YA (Young Adult) mentor, guided us through some exercises designed to help focus our characters, plot, action, etc. I found these incredibly helpful and reassuring on some of the choices I've made. Then we started the week-long task of reviewing each other's manuscripts. We focused our attention on Annameekee Hesik's The You Know Who Girls: Sophomore Year.

I won't go into the specifics of the feedback participants receive. However, I will say that I took some of  the feedback and applied it to my own manuscript. So, thanks Annameekee for volunteering to go first and for letting me learn from your session.

My manuscript was supposed to be next but we ran out of time (yay!).

I took the afternoon break to clear my mind, reflect on the intense morning session, and think about where I wanted my story to go. I also have this thing about reading in public so I was trying not to freak out too much about having to read 2 pages of my manuscript to the class.

After dinner LLF presented a faculty reading. I took my flipcam to record it but at the last moment I decided to just experience it and not watch it through a tiny digital screen. I'm glad I put the camera away.

The faculty mentors read in reverse alphabetical order starting with our mentor Alex, then Cris Beam, Jewelle Gomez, and Dorothy Allison.

Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to recognize this opportunity to study their reading styles instead of just sitting there with my mouth open. LLF recorded the reading so I won't try to summarize them. When they're uploaded, I'll repost. Just be ready to be amazed.

After the reading came the opportunity for questions. Again, I can't relay all the important information these established and esteemed writers shared. Though, I was able to scrawl a few gems onto my pad.

Jewelle Gomez on mining personal experiences without letting it become traumatic:
Get to the place where the paper cuts you but you don't bleed to death.
on performance readings:
It's about the sound of the words as well as the meaning.
I don't have the exact quote from Dorothy Allison (I hope she forgives me for skewing/slaughtering her words) but she essentially suggested identifying those tragic family stories we've shaped to be funny in order to diminish the tragedy. Go ahead, brush away the humor. Rewrite those stories as the tragedies they are. Absorb them. Then, rewrite those stories again and layer some of the humor back into them.

She also mentioned the Chick-fil-A situation in the LGBT community noting that sometimes rage is the catalyst for writing. However, she was quick to add:
If I'm gonna write out of rage, it's gonna be layered and textured.
That wasn't just a reading -- it was a master class.

I returned to my room where Jef and I worked on homework. As we worked, sometimes talking, sometimes not, I knew I wasn't the same writer I was two days ago. I've changed.

When I worked in HIV education, we based our outreach on a behavioral theory model (I don't remember the name) but one of the stages proposes that when a subject is exposed to HIV prevention information, he or she absorbs the information and is presented with a choice. The subject can dismiss the information or move forward with it. Yet, whatever action the subject takes, the information can't be un-introduced. It's now part of the individual.

That's how I felt at the end of day 2.

My only choice is to move forward with the information the faculty mentors and LLF fellows have unreservedly shared. I mean, I came all this way at great expense. It would be illogical to dismiss their information.

My inner Vulcan agreed.