With December comes the close of the quarter, which means my short story workshop at UCLA Extension has come to an end. My second critique went much better than the first, partly because I knew what to expect. According to the class, my story was sound on a technical level, few line edits. However, several people felt the characters were flat and wanted to see the story expanded out. The instructor told me I had a publishable work as it was, but it was not publishable as literary fiction. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I am learning, and I consider it a sign of progress that I’m creating “publishable” works.
The most valuable lesson I learned in this class was that you have to be careful with whom you share your work. Having readers you trust is extremely important. As my mentor said, “You wouldn’t let just anyone babysit your children. You shouldn’t let just anyone read your writing.” However, the class was a strong group, and I’ve invited several people to apply to become members of my Los Angeles writers’ group. I’m pleased that we’ve had interest, submissions, and that the group will grow. As for my Santa Barbara group, we welcomed a new member I brought in a couple weeks ago. His first meeting went well, and I believe he will learn a lot from us and become an important contributor of the group.
I also completed my seminar at the beginning of the month, with 115 pages of my novel draft completed. I had hoped to finish the entire draft, between 250-300 pages, but I’m thrilled that I’m almost halfway there. I’ve gotten down most of the important plot points, so now seems like a good time to explore my characters: put them in interesting situations, fill in the blanks. I met with a former professor of mine, and he had some great feedback. One of the things he told me was that I may not end up getting this published. It might just be a learning process. Of course my intention is to publish, but having that in the back of my mind makes the process a lot easier, especially when writing while thinking about potential critiques kills my creativity.
With my sister’s college graduation from Prescott College in Arizona, Christmas with family in Lake Arrowhead, and Tahoe with friends for New Year’s, I am looking forward to vacationing, relieved to take a break, and simultaneously concerned about writing. It will be a challenge – how I will manage to write amidst the travel, events, and people. In January I begin a new class at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program: I’ve been accepted to the Advanced Short Fiction Workshop. I’m considering another contest with a January deadline – last week I submitted an entry to an environmental writing contest. While I don’t feel my story was winning material, I was proud of writing over 3000 words in a single day and coming up with something cohesive, that I liked. (Creative writing is very different from the 10-15 page papers I used to punch out in college.) And later this month, I have an article appearing in Edible Santa Barbara.
Below: My workstation in my sister’s kitchen in Arizona. I’m blogging while my mom and sister bake mesquite gingerbread cookies.