Monday, July 27, 2015

The Adventure Begins

By Kim Dillon

What if…you had no affirmative genre, no manuscript in process, and ­no clue about how to maneuver Read & Critique X in front of Jane Stine, Parachute Press co-chair and legendary editor of the Goosebumps series?

You stay up late writing, and go for it!
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The 23rd Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April catapulted me from merely thinking about writing into a phase of creative incubation. The conference provided unprecedented access to PPW faculty and opportunities to build a network of writing community colleagues.

Fearlessly entering Tales of Horror: How to Survive Plotting Nightmares, I was met by a lighthearted declaration from Stine that I must be a glutton for punishment. Translation: she recognized me from the R&C-X! “Plotting is all the same despite the genre,” she said, explaining the perfect way to develop any story idea begins with ‘What if….’

At lunch on Friday, I was a coincidental guest at the table of F.T. Bradley, an author with whom I was unfamiliar, although I had selected to attend her Write the MG and YA Mystery/Thriller session that afternoon. Our paths intersected daily, and Fleur and I engaged in multifarious laughs about Kraft Singles, shift changes in the kitchen between lunch and dinner, tongue-scorching shepherd’s pie, and a failed lemon bar heist. I’m now reading her middle grade Double Vision series – and fully intend to make good on the lemon bars.

All culinary capers aside, I sorted my collection of Flash Fiction Contest writing prompts Friday afternoon at the bar and wrote the rough draft over a serious red wine, obtained in anticipation of Mary Kay Andrews’ uncensored and highly entertaining keynote address. Her description of working for abusive jerks and learning to say ‘No!’ to work place intimidation empowered her as a human being and helped propel her to success as a mainstream fiction author. Identifying personally with her story, Andrews incited me to get mad, reclaim my assertiveness, and ‘stick it to the man!’

The next day, I caught the end of Scenes: Using Every Crayon in the Box and briefly addressed Andrews as she exited Eagles Nest within inches of where I sat. I explained that although I have not read her work, her keynote message made me a fan and inspired me in dealing with my own ongoing situation involving a man and a stick. Our conversation was short but meaningful, and before departing, Andrews drew a copy of Summer Rental out of her shoulder bag, saying, “I always bring extra copies with me because I like to give my books to people who say nice things about my work.” At Sunday’s book signing event I thanked her again and managed to turn that gift into a signed copy.

Wandering into a largely uninhabited banquet room on Sunday, I just can’t forget the warm  hospitality I received when a gentleman named Link Miller invited me to join the group for breakfast. Conversation ensued about all sorts of writing projects. I left the table with a preliminary structure for a story idea that began emerging as soon as the Choose Your Own Writing Adventure began. Connecting with Miller, president of the Parker Writers Group, was a fortuitous event as I attended their May meeting and agreed to help form a thriving critique group.

Gaining tremendous insight from Pam McCutcheon’s Saturday session, Brainstorming Using the Plotting Board, I visited with her at the book signing event. I took advantage of the personal invitation I received to attend her Writing the Fiction Synopsis presentation at PPW’s Write Brain event in May and left with a better understanding of loglines.

In closing, I must mention Trai Cartwright’s high-energy Top 10 Story-Telling Devices Movies can Teach Fiction Writers because when I went home exhausted to kids still young enough to have missed me and told them I wanted to watch Wreck it Ralph with them, I earned the high score! We watched that DVD three times that week, taking notes and pausing for discussion. My ten-year-old son Gage, who loves to write, really connected with the process of analyzing the three-
act structure of one of his favorite movies. I’m excited to have him along for the adventure! 

This post by Kim is part of the ongoing series of blogs by PPWC15 scholarship recipients.

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