Headed into Day Two of Borderlands with a binder full of interesting stories that I have read and given a decent critique.
This is how it goes: We were given a schedule on Friday along with a number and a small piece of paper with a sentence. Based on the numbers, we were to go to specific rooms to speak on our critiques. The small piece of paper was a “starter” for a story we were to have ready for Sunday. Aaaand the story was to be based on everything you learned today. Yeah, Saturday, Day Two.
My sentence was: So you think you know the truth?
My brain shut down. I folded the paper and stuck it in my writers notebook.
Friday night, I made plans to get up early and do some yoga. Then, I was going to check out the continental breakfast (which normally is yogurt or a homemade waffle-no meat). I had big intentions. Especially after I took the picture with F. Paul Wilson and fan girled to death. Now, you know my big plans.
I woke up late as fuck.
Dammit iPhone alarm!!
Fastest shower in history. Thank God, I stole my kids donut holes and turkey sausage (thanks, sis for that idea), think about yoga as I grab the piece of paper with my location and run down the hall. I made it.
First session was with Tom. Tom was a super laid back guy. Head of the whole Borderlands event and a New York accent that comes and goes. He was a hoot.
Feedback time…my story seemed to cause a bit of controversy. I didn’t name the sex of the protagonist, which confused everyone. There was discussion on the trope I chose but I gave it a lovely twist. (No, I’m not gonna share). Tom liked the twist.
Sadly, because of my old grandma like age, no one knew who in the hell Robert Johnson was. And this meant, I would have to explain this all the rest of the day.
It seems I wasn’t emailed the first batch of stories, so I missed out, but I did have another person email me them later. It turns out those were the most fun stories and I didn’t have them. Ugh.
We received feedback. We sat and everyone went around the room-not necessarily shitting on you (but it felt like it)-and in the end, you are able to explain or share anything you felt relevant to enhance your story. It went like this for a few hours (maybe two?)
The last to give feedback was Tom. I could listen to him talk forever but alas, this is but a summary. Our time was up and we headed to the next room for critiques.
Next session was with Ginger. She’s an editor and works with Tom. She has bright red hair and she’s tiny but has an aura around her of power. I was first and we chatted before everyone else arrived. Repeat of the first session.
And then, lunch.
I felt a cold coming on. I hooked up with one of the other girls from the Horror Writers Association and we both decided we wanted soup. We walked around downtown Baltimore, searching for soup. (I didn’t even see the damned Chik Fil A across the street…duh!)
We found a lobstah joint. She got a lobster roll. I asked to try the lobster bisque. (There was chow-dah but I didn’t have a good experience with clam chow-dah years ago) It was really good. I got a cup with fresh lobster on top. We had a nice chat and talked about the stress of writing and stuff like that.
Back to class. Next session was with Douglas F (Prime Evil) Winter!! It took me a minute but when I remembered him, oh the crushing came in strong. It’s like, “I used to read your books in bed, under blankets late at night.”
No, Tracy, that didn’t sound perverted at all. Not one bit.
We took a picture together. After everyone came in the room, he closes the door (albeit dramatically) and walks over to our little group, “I just got over pneumonia.”
I stood up. Nope. Not today Satan.
He said he was cleared and had a note from his doctor. Instantly, I felt my throat tighten and fluid fill my lungs.
Sadly, pneumonia made his voice soft and scratchy. I had to crane to listen and of course, didn’t have some of the stories I needed to critique. I listened and took my critique like a man.
The best was last-F. Paul Wilson. We’re friends now. And I was first and goofily walked in and probably said something incredibly stupid. (Hey Paul, pigeons can’t fart. Did you know that?)
This was a fun group. We’d all passed out our critiques, so we came in empty handed. I’m not even going to get into it but I will say that Paul is a fun guy. Worth the wait.
We went off kilter because I was the black dot in a snowstorm, one of the other women asked me a question about writing about people of color. She said that she went to a conference and a guy led a seminar that basically said, “People of color don’t like to be described in the terms of food. Like no chocolate or fudge.”
I looked at her like she lost her mind, “Huh?”
“Well,” I cleared my throat, “I don’t mind. I mean, my kids are mixed. My youngest kid’s dad is Latino. Someone referred to her skin color as cafe con leche. I wasn’t offended because she is cafe con leche colored.”
“Look, you can describe skin without being offensive. But, in short, and on behalf of the black race, no problem describing skin as food. I mean, I like to call myself the ‘chocolate girl wonder’. It’s no biggie. My sister, the poet, does it better and with more eloquence than me. But no offense taken.”
Then, my boy, Paul, backs me up, “Some people just look for something to bitch about. I mean, do what you need to do.”
I asked for more “Repairman Jack” books for my friend. And the chicks of the room discussed our writing assignments for the night. One girl had the first line from Fahrenheit 451. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew.
She had a good idea for me to work on mine and we all got advice from Paul. It was dinner time and we still had one more group session together.
I turn to the Southern gal that asked me about race and said the following, “Where you from?”
“Where can I get some fried fish?”
“Girl, I know just the place.”
“I knew you would. It’s a Southern thing.”
We had fun. She said it felt like she knew me but I know it was my mother’s Southern side taking over and exuding Southern warmth and kindness.
Everyone needed a drink. We went to what was a pub. Fish and chips were good. Then, we looked up and another group of writers entered the joint. We waved and finished eating.
One girl wanted ice cream. I decided to go with her to get ice cream, which was an adventure because it was located in a fried chicken joint! They had this interesting way of making it and it looked like a rose. She had a small bowl of mango roses with other stuff on top (like coconut and mango sprinkles). It looked good but I knew my body. I pushed my limit with the creamy bisque. I would be surprised if I didn’t fart my way back to the hotel.
One more group meeting. We all were a bit more familiar with each other. I made some new friends. This was the wrap up.
One of the grunts gave the panel some liquor. Paul opened the liquor and everyone on the panel seemed to partake.
A very big takeaway is that writers can drink. Like DRINK!! But, they got nothing on Librarians. Oh, they can tear a house down and come to work the next day like nothing happened.
We learned a lot that night. I learned about editing and how Paul was like, “You guys-everyone in here-lays a lot of exposition, cut it out.”
Tom said, “Fuck the simultaneous queries. Just send your work everywhere. It’s better to turn someone down than wait for one person to turn you down.”
Chet Williamson gave an awesome, funny speech which basically said, “Don’t quit your day job, be sure your partner has medical benefits, write and submit. Never stop.” He said a lot of stuff. He is a really great speaker, he showed even more greatness on Sunday.
In the end, a fun time was had by all. Sadly, I can’t party like I used to and this was the second time for midnight in a row. I am not like these other writers. A new friend and I snuck out to work on our stories at 1100. I felt like I let the team down.
We needed to send our print jobs to the front desk to be printed. I finished my opus at 1230 and looking like anyone’s mammy, I went downstairs to get my print job. I step off the elevator and there is the panel, going out for drinks!
Jesus, I felt old.
(part 3-final day)