Sunday, September 5, 2010

Featured Guest Betty Booher speaks: The Summer of Continuous Improvement

It all started with a rejection. Two. A dismal contest score.
That’s not exactly right.
It all started with Donald Maass. Washington DC. The Fire in Fiction.
Permission to get off the submit-submit-submit-keep-those-partials-rolling merry-go-round to stop, stare, play with my words again.
His advice, admonishment really, poked, prodded, needled through revisions, work on the next story, assorted conferences and writers’ meetings.
Then I decided to audition for the symphony.
I know. It was a crazy to compete with Conservatory-trained players from London, Paris, Iowa. But this wasn’t so much about competition as personal challenge. I practiced and practiced and practiced. Took private lessons. Examined every attack, every pitch, every release.
And I got better.
No, I didn’t win the audition, or even make it to the next round, but each time I pick up my horn I can tell. That intensive work, those hours in the little attic room, improved my ability, made the music better.
The tools to improve my writing weren’t nearly as obvious as playing scales and orchestral excerpts. Then Margie Lawson came to Portland to present her two day workshop. By the time that weekend was over, the reasons behind my rejections started emerging from the page like a ruddy sun ball through a coastal fog bank.
Ignoring the well-intentioned advice of some of my writer friends to return my story to the slush pile recycle bin, I made my way to the attic once more, this time armed with Margie’s lecture packets, a bag of highlighters, and coffee. A lot of coffee.
It wasn’t enough.
Don’t get me wrong. The coffee was great. It is Portland.
Margie’s lectures and exercises made me look at the page in an entirely different way. But I needed more. I needed to take the next step.
I needed to go to Colorado.
Immersion class was lecture packets on steroids. At 8888 feet.
I’m back in the attic now. Practicing scales and rhetorical devices and raising character stakes.
Margie Lawson armed me with a bucket full of new writing tools.
Donald Maass gave me permission to use them.
Thank you both!

1 comment:

  1. From one crazy woman to another, all that practicing in music and writing has got to pay off. Loved your simile: "the reasons behind my rejections started emerging from the page like a ruddy sun ball through a coastal fog bank." It's particularly apropos for where I live in constant fog (both literally and figuratively).

    Hang in there, Betty. Soon those scales and rhetorical devices will intersect even more than they do now. Then you will submit and editors will fight over publishing you. I can hardly wait to see it.