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Day 2: Would You Like Some Tea? I Would Love Some Tea!

mountains
The view from my balcony.

Our first real day of workshop — and that photo above really was what greeted me first thing in the morning — is led by Karen Joy Fowler. She’s fantastic; I love her work, and happily direct you, dear reader, to What I Didn’t See, her alternately harrowing and enchanting new collection of stories. She’s even better in person: wise, funny and totally candid, especially (ulp!) about rejections. If I remember correctly, it was Sarah Canary that was rejected 20-plus times until it finally found its way into the right hands. (Later, Fowler also does one of the best readings of the day, from an upcoming novel: a hilarious and tense face-off in a high school cafeteria.)

We’re off to a good start: a couple of science-fiction pieces — one set way off (Fowler said it was too way off) in the future, another the beginning of a post-apocalyptic saga that starts in the Salton Sea. I dig the fact that one’s a social worker and another’s a lawyer — again, regular folks like me. “Too many adjectives,” the class practically agreed about the latter piece, except that I didn’t. In my head I figure they’ll all slam my piece later for being overwritten and hyperbolic.

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Day 1: Jitters in the Valley.

The view from my daily workshop session.

So I landed in Reno tired, my eyes red from lack of sleep, lungs breathing in stale cabin air all the way, and I have the jitters. I’m anxious and my nerves are jangly, but it’s not because of the din and jingle of the slot machines by the luggage carousels. I’m not jittery because of the long roundabout trip, free courtesy of Southwest — Oakland to Los Angeles to Reno — or because of the even longer trip I did just 24 hours before (Oakland to Austin to Los Angeles and back to Oakland 12 hours later, just to drop off my daughter). I’m anxious because this is my very first writers’ workshop and I’m in the presence of real writers.

A bunch of us workshop participants are being picked up at the airport and so I click on the link in the email signature of one of the participants. (Let’s give her a pseudonym, like, uh, Janet.) Janet is already published all over the place: PANK! Storyglossia! Jitters, yes? I suppose it’s illustrative of my mindset — much of which I’ve already explored elsewhere — that my first nervous thought wasn’t “Wow, I’m in the company of these people!” but “Crap, what do I have to say to these writers?”