How I Wrote a Book, By Popular Request

Megan asked:

Did you say you wrote a book? I’d like to hear more about that. I’m very interested in writers and how they do it.

 Hmm…I did write a novel.  It was an on-again-off-again affair for a few years, until I decided I was going to go bonkers if I didn’t finish it.  So rather than going to Pennsic last August, I took advantage of the apartment being empty and set myself up with a DIY writer’s retreat.  I cooked up pots of food and oodles of scones beforehand, and stowed them in the freezer.  I canceled pretty much all of my commitments, and I became an urban hermit for about a week and a half.  Having given up a couple of weeks of sylvan festivities was somewhat depressing…but made it all the more important to Finish the Freakin’ Book.  And I did.

So far as ‘writers and how they do it,’ it seems that there are countless methods writers use, often contradictory.  I-can’t-remember-which-writer takes hours to write each sentence, but then that sentence is perfect and never needs revision.  I write first drafts by hand, always, so I know no one else will ever (be able to) read that piece of paper.  Then I revise again and again, depending on the work.  I’ve also found that techniques from other disciplines (e.g. theatre) are a whole lot of help in writing.  But instead of waxing poetic for far longer than the average internet-attention-span is likely to last, I will plug my other blog, Storytraining: Techniques, news, and inspirations for all disciplines of storytellers…  Granted, I haven’t posted there since I moved in November, but never fear, it will soon be resurrected.  Really :)

A Pennsic Retrospective, part 3: The Power of Suggestion

“You know, in my line of work you get a feel for these things, and I can tell you two are a great couple. How long have you been together – two, three years?” asked the inebriated judge.

Now, for those of you who haven’t been, Pennsic is a wonderful place to pick up chicks (and guys). But I had decided before arriving that I was not looking to get picked up. I didn’t want Logan to get stuck with the one girl at the party who wasn’t looking for action, so I opened my mouth to explain that we’d just met.

“What’s it been, snookums, three years?” Logan asked.

“Almost four,” I returned.

By the end of the evening, we’d supposedly been married for five years (putting me in my teens on the ‘big day’), and the judge was far enough into his cup to buy it.

By the end of the weekend, we were crazy enough to believe that – who knows? – we might make a great couple. And the rest, you might say, is thanks to the power of suggestion.

Thanks, Judge!

A Pennsic Retrospective, part 2: In Which a Punch-Drunk Judge Points our Heroine in the Right Direction

I was home – but almost no one else was. Of the three folks left, two were too buzzed to remember me even if we had known each other. Logan was partaking but coherent; I’d never met him before, but he was kind enough to help me unpack, and even volunteered to sleep elsewhere that night, lending me his bed so I could wait to set my tent up during daylight hours…

But beds were the last thing on my mind; this was to be a short trip to Pennsic to catch up with old friends and no more. I changed into what I had that could pass for garb. I’d packed quickly, not bothering to dig out my more authentic stuff, and the peasant shirts I’d brought included a subtly tie-dyed number that I hope wasn’t too noticeable in the dark. Soon I was sitting round the campfire, re-making the acquaintance of the folks who had been so gracious to me three years prior.

After some time Logan invited me to go party-roaming, along with a couple of girls and a judge who had been brought in to remarry a couple who camped nearby. Sober as a judge the judge was not. This judiciary gentleman developed a habit of leaning in to whisper incoherent nothings in my ear. At some point, he must have given up on his own designs, as he declared:
“You know, in my line of work you get a feel for these things, and I can tell you two are a great couple. How long have you been together – two, three years?”

A Pennsic Retrospective, part 1: How I Met my Mr. Right while Dressed in Funny Garb, on a Campground, at Night

Logan and I met through mutual friends.

I hadn’t been to Pennsic* for years and didn’t plan on staying for long: I only had a few days that I could squeeze out of my schedule. But summer after summer I’d failed to revisit the folks who had so beautifully welcomed me at my first Pennsic, and with a bohemian’s penchant for traveling, I wasn’t sure when I’d spend another August in the States.

My campmates knew I was coming, but not when to expect me. After a nine-hour drive, I arrived at Cooper’s Lake Campground at dusk, checked in, and received my medallion. Back in the car, I spread out my map and tried to divine my way to the high meadows from those squiggly lines. I remembered the street names on my way: The Great Eastern Highway, Good Intentions, and Free Will. But the campsite looked so foreign from behind the wheel of a car. I had to ask directions two or three times. Everyone was in garb, and readying to party. Never have I felt so garish wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

It was full dark by the time I came to the hellishly steep hill named Abandon Hope, and crawled up it. Sure now that I was in the right neighborhood, I parked the car and wandered past the red-and-black sheetwall that I thought was the right place. I peeked in the gate, and was greeted by a dry erase board that had been propped on an easel. The board featured the household symbol – and some phrases I’ll omit for the sake of innocent eyes.

I was home.

*The largest yearly event of the medieval recreation organization the Society for Creative Anachronism. Upwards of 10,000 people camping, crafting, shopping and partying with a medieval flavor.

Dan Henley, Much Missed

Yesterday I learned that a friend of mine – who was not a particularly close friend, but was a dear one – passed away on May 6. Dan was a jeweler who vended at SCA events, Renaissance faires, and so on; he made these lovely delicate little creations with large, deft hands. He was a serene and good-humored presence in places that can often be rowdy and overwhelming, and although I usually only saw him once a year, he will be missed throughout the seasons.

What an odd thing it is, though, to learn online that someone has died. I want to look someone in the eye when I hear news like that. I want to hear someone’s voice.
At the same time – despite Dan’s own scarce presence on the web – a quick google turned up page after page of blog posts, comments, status updates…all in his memory. In a medium that is often casual and trite, Dan’s friends are poetic and heartfelt. These posts may only be words in the ether, but they are laments all the same.