Ok, I know I said I would try really hard to post every night while I was at Boot Camp.Â Let’s just say that was a foolish assertion.Â Anyway, it’s sort of fitting that the posts for yesterday and today are blended into one another, because that is largely how I experienced the days themselves.
Early in the morning on Tuesday, Card did a verbal critique of the original submissions from the Boot Campers.Â Here’s what I sent again (or, rather, just the portion we read in class):
Harold Forbes sat in the common room at Oaklawn Retirement Home and listened to his fellow residents hash over the death of Marian Billford.Â He had already decided to investigate.Â Even if he didnâ€™t succeed in solving the murder, Harold thought, at least he might succeed in getting himself killed.
He thought it, but he didnâ€™t say it, and not just because no one would understand.Â Harold had no way to express a thought even half that complex.Â Full sentences had been lost to him since the stroke, and with them so many things he had once taken for granted:Â humor, sarcasm, wordplay.Â For Harold speech had been reduced to a word here and there, which came out soft and slurred and occasionally unrelated to the word heâ€™d intended.Â Also gone was the ability to communicate without speech, with just a narrowing of his eyes or a twist of his lips.Â Though really, that had died with Rose.
He had learned of Marianâ€™s death from Gina, his favorite therapist, while she had him helpless on the exercise mat that morning.Â â€œIt seems she died in her sleep,â€ Gina told him.
Harold, lying on his back, managed a sloppy â€œSorry.â€
â€œFor her, or for yourself?â€Â Gina arched an eyebrow, along with all the hardware attached to it.Â Harold knew the two rings through each brow were meant to make Gina look tough.Â But to him, they merely made her look young.Â Still, Gina was perceptive, and she pulled no punches.Â That was why Harold liked her.
Card, who evidently read the stories blind and didn’t know whose was whose, said, that it was quite a challenge I had set for myself, that of the mystery-solving stroke victim.Â “I read this and I thought, this guy is the bravest idiot I have ever seen.”
And I sat in the front row trying not to beam.
Later in the day, several people read aloud the story ideas we came up with on Monday night.Â I was one of the people who got to go up on stage and read from my card.Â It went something like this:
“A glass maker is building the stained glass windows for a new cathedral.Â While working, he hears a woman moaning and concludes there must be a ghost on the premisesâ€”perhaps the ghost of his daughter, for whose death he feels responsible.Â Eventually he finds a girl who the priest has buried alive in the foundation.Â The priest entombed her there because she was pregnant with his child, and she threatened to expose him as unchaste.”
I stopped reading, and about three people said, “And then?”
And I realized that, yes, I had forgotten to include one last, hugely important sentence:Â “He rescues her.”
(I forgot to put it on the card, too, so please understand that I am not saying that I am merely guilty of stage fright.Â I am also guilty of being a moron.)
And then the audience happily shredded the story idea and picked it apart bit by bit.Â I was hugely grateful to be one of the people who got to do this in front of Card, who is just incredibly well-informed and had a lot of valuable stuff to say.Â So did many members of the audience.Â All in all, it was kinda embarrassing, but thoroughly great.
After six or seven of us went through this process, we broke into small groups and did the same thing to each others’ stories.Â I was really impressed by the quality of the story seeds my peers had come up with.Â If other groups had material that good, there should be a staggering number of excellent stories written in the next couple of months.
Then we went back to the lecture hall for more lecturing, this time on the business of being a writer.Â After this, Card gave us Boot Campers our assignment for the next day:Â we would each write a complete story based on one of our five story seeds.Â In truth, we had known this was coming, so no one was exactly surprised.Â Perhaps we were a little dismayed.Â The stories would be due at 4:00 the next afternoon, just shy of twenty-four hours from the time the assignment was given.Â After that the Writing Class students went back for more of the business lecture, but most if not all of us Boot Campers headed back to the dorms to contemplate our doom.
The story I wound up writing was the same one I had critiqued by the workshop at large.Â Or, a version of it.Â All of the elements are still there:Â the daughter, the cathedral, the murder.Â But they are very, well, different from what I originally wrote down.Â Twisted.Â Better.
I worked on that story until midnight, then again from five in the morning until 2:30 P.M.Â I am very possibly in love with it.Â It is nothing like what I have written before, and I have nary a clue about where to sell it.Â But it is whole, it is complete, and it might be very nearly as good as I meant it to be.Â And though I’m not sure I can say in a sentence exactly what the moral is, I know that it speaks about things that mean something to me.Â The characters are very unlike me, but they strike close to the place where I live.
And I realized after finishing it that this is what I want my life to be.Â I want to wake up early, write a kick-ass story, and then, I dunno, have a nap or something.Â The point is, I want to write like this, and not just for one week.Â While I was writing that story I was tired, hungry, sometimes frustrated, and frequently anxious about time.Â But I was never, not for one minute, unhappy.
I am often unhappy when I work.Â And now I see that the thing that makes me unhappy is not the work at all, but the idea that keeps flitting through my head of not working.Â The questioning of my ability to finish.Â The wondering about what else I might be doing, or whether it might be ok to take a break.
If I could, I would arrange to have OSC require a story from me every week, so that I would have the same pressure put upon me that I have had here.Â But I honestly cannot see what would be in it for him, so I will have to find another way of replicating this environment.Â Whatever happens, I don’t want to lose the memory of today and what it felt like.Â I want today to be my life.