Tag Archives: Orson Scott Card

Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp: Day 6. The end.

And…it’s over. I’m home. I’m completely and utterly exhausted, completely useless to Kyle who wants to get things done around the house and do grocery shopping and have actual conversations. I’ve got nothing for him.

Sunrise coming into the landing at JFK.

Sunrise coming into the landing at JFK.

Part of it is that I took the red eye back to NJ and I am a bad sleeper on planes, so I’ve gotten almost no sleep. (Word to the wise: If you’re reading this someday as research, trying to decide if you want to go and/or how it’s all going to go down–fly back the next day if you can. When I left people were still talking, and we didn’t get a lot of time to socialize. I would’ve loved an extra evening with no deadlines to get to know people better.)

Not the most flattering picture of me, but the fact that we took a selfie makes me laugh.

Not the most flattering picture of me, but the fact that we took a selfie makes me laugh.

Yesterday was by far my favorite day of the experience, I think because it was the only day we really had time to chat AND because we were all so exhausted that we were punchy as hell. We laughed together a lot, confirming for me what I had been suspecting: I really, REALLY like my fellow boot campers. Not only are they clever and good writers, but they’re funny. And they all seem to be genuinely good people. I can’t wait to see where their careers go.

Uncle Orson's Literary Boot Camp, class of 2013. Yawning.

Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp, class of 2013. Yawning.

We took pictures at the end of the day. There was some poor schmuck who was sitting in the lobby who took one on something like 8 different devices. Ridiculous. Mine was the last and we wanted something different, so we decided to do one that showed what boot camp was really about: being exhausted. When I first saw it I was disappointed that it’s blurry, but on second examination, I think it’s a pretty accurate representation. Being fuzzy and tired were a HUGE part of boot camp, especially toward the end.

Now…back to real life. Tech for Hamlet starts tomorrow!!

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Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp: Day 5

Yesterday was a long, but lovely, day of critiquing. I don’t have a lot to say about it because there was not really a single part of the day was about me. Since I had already gone, I didn’t have anything at stake. Which was the best part of it.  Since I wasn’t nervous about my own performance, I paid attention better to everyone else’s.

It may have been my favorite day of the entire process. Over and over again I was astounded by what my fellow boot campers came up with, usually things that I completely missed during my own first read through of a story. They’re brilliant and funny. My sincerest hope is that we all stay in touch, because even though I still don’t feel like I know many of them personally (we’ve all been rather too busy to get to know one another), I do think if we continue to sharpen and critique each other we can help each other toward amazing writing careers.

Or at least, they can help me. I hope my critiques have been useful too. I don’t know I guess.

Today is the last day, which is good. Yesterday I wasn’t ready for it to be over. This morning I know that I couldn’t possibly absorb anymore. It’s all been too intense. Too much.

We have 3 more critiques to read and a Q&A (hopefully) afterward. Then it’s off to the airport and eventually home to Kyle. I’m ready to be home, and to focus on costuming again for awhile.

If this week has taught me little else, it’s that I need both of these careers. I need to work with my hands. I need to get out of my own head sometimes and away from reading and writing sometimes. It can just be too much to absorb. I stop being able to think about things.

And, with costuming, you walk away in the end KNOWING that you’ve made something really cool (or not). For me, writing is never that certain. 

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Uncle Orson’s Writing Bootcamp: Day 4

I don’t have a lot of time. This morning was the first time since I’ve been here since I actually slept until my alarm, which I very stupidly set for after I wanted to be up (thinking it wouldn’t really matter and I would wake up sometime between 5am and 6am no matter what). I suppose it meant I needed the sleep, but still– at 7 am, I’m running behind!

Yesterday was the first round of critiques, which included mine. It went…alright. Not as well as I’d hoped, but not as badly as I feared. Does that make any sense?

In general people (including OSC) like the concept and the story and though we don’t talk about it very much, my writing, but… I don’t know.At least, that was my impression. Still, I feel unsure. I’m not sure where to go with it. I’m not sure if there is anywhere to go with it.

What I DO know is that I want to take all of these people home with me so they can critique ALL of my work. Cuz man are they good. Seriously. They brought up a TON of flaws, which was good (and what we’re here for), and I was right there with them for each one.

OSC claims that we’ll need to take a year away from what we work on here this week in order to really think about things and I believe him. It’s too hard to have any sort of perspective right now.

I got to eat this last night. You should be jealous.

I got to eat this last night. You should be jealous.

Also yesterday was a very lovely evening out. The Cards took us all to a local restaurant and ordered us (or made us order) a ton of food. It was delightful. I think my favorite thing was a caprese salad with yellow tomatoes. Or possibly sitting next to Mrs. Card, who is possibly the sweetest woman I’ve ever met. I only wish I had been less tired and a better dinner companion.

It was a nice break from the writing/reading/critiquing and a lovely chance to just be people. Even if we were all really tired people.

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Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp: Day 3. Just. Keep. Writing.

This is my view from my hotel room where I spent ALL DAY yesterday. If I had been smart, I would've moved the desk so I could see the lovely mountains. Instead I stared at a wall. (I really have no relevant pictures to share. Can you tell?)

This is my view from my hotel room where I spent ALL DAY yesterday. If I had been smart, I would’ve moved the desk so I could see the lovely mountains. Instead I stared at a wall. (I really have no relevant pictures to share. Can you tell?)

Yesterday was all about writing a short story. That’s all I did, minus a couple little breaks for food. Thankfully, I volunteered to be one of the first ones to be done, so my deadline was early (at 6p) so I couldn’t fret about the stupid f— thing all night long like I imagine some boot campers are doing. (The second deadline was this morning at 10a.)

To start the day off right, I dropped my 3×5 story card behind my bed the night before while outlining. Actually, before I had even begun to outline. Seriously. And to make it more interesting, that was the ONLY copy I had of it. I almost cried. It fell all the way to the floor and since the bed bottoms have sides, I had to take apart the massive queen sized hotel bed to get it back.

I chose not to accept that as an omen for how things were going to go.

And really, it wasn’t. I had a really solid idea of where everything was going before I even sat down (thanks to OSC’s techniques and my small group on day 2). It made the whole process much, much simpler. I mean, I wrote a pretty decent 7,000 word short story in a day. A long day, true, but this is just the beginning. It’ll get easier. I’ll get faster.

Today we start the critiques. Ironically enough, even though I volunteered first I am somehow the 4th person on the list, so I don’t think we’ll get to mine today. Which, I think is okay. I wanted to go early because I didn’t want to have to worry about my story while critiquing other people’s, but now that it’s in and printed off and in everyone’s hands (!!!), there’s nothing I can do about it. The pressure is gone.

I do want to note that I did turn my story in at 6:40p, late. That’s not my style and I’m fairly embarrassed, but I was making final edits at 6p and it just wasn’t done. Now I know my editing process takes longer than I think, even if it’s a very simple clean up of the work.

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Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp: Day 2

So, yesterday (Tuesday) was the final day of the writing seminar of Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp and Writing Seminar. It has now officially switched to Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp and Writing Seminar.

Huge thanks to fellow boot camper Jerry for the awesome pic of me and my interview partner Janae listening intently!

Huge thanks to fellow boot camper Jerry for the awesome pic of me and my interview partner Janae listening intently!

The last day of the seminar was a bit of a hodge-podge day. We read our (the boot campers) very beginnings of our application stories to learn how NOT to write openings, which was less of a blow to the ego than it sounds. OSC referred to parts of my story as “maudlin” and “repulsive,” and said it created a very ambiguous fake suspense. He also said there was some point to writing it in 1st person, present tense (which he HATES), though ultimately it wasn’t worth it and it would’ve been better in deep 3rd person limited.

And, I agree. I think he’s right. I was trying really hard to make it a good, emotional story and it reads that way. But you know what? It was the first short story I’ve written in FIFTEEN years. 15. High school was the last (and first) time I had tackled the form. And it got me here, so I don’t think I did too badly.

Besides, based on just the very beginning of the story and the title, he guessed where the story was going. That’s awesome. It probably says more about him as a hyper-intelligent reader, but still, I was the one that dropped those clues, however badly. I’m proud of that.

We also talked about story cards by having a few people get up and volunteer to read theirs. I’m so glad I didn’t go up. Thinking it was supposed to be written like a blurb on the back of a book, mine were all WAY too detailed.

Later, we broke off into small groups and pitched one each. It was especially important to me as a boot camper because Day 3 (today) had me writing a complete short story based on the cards. And I got awesome feedback. My group was awesome! Really great questions about what people were confused by, or their ideas of where the story could go. They totally helped shape my story into what it became.

And because I know you’re all SUPER interested, this was what I pitched (and please remember, it’s a story idea, it is very rough):

Justice Bingham was 14 years old when he was sent down the mountain for the first time. He was a man according to his father, though his voice still cracked and shaving was only necessary every second month. Still, he was sent among the Commons (humans without God-given powers) to deliver his father’s penalty to Dwayne A. Folk, a would-be murderer. When he arrived to deliver the blow he found he could not kill the human and so, did the next best thing– he took Dwayne A. Folk to the cops.

But the cops had no Auntie Oracle and could not charge Dwayne A. Folk for the things he had not done yet, and so, let him go. The next day he killed 25 old ladies while they played bridge.

Justice’s father went on a rampage through the mountain community yelling obscenities about soft hearts and weak bellies (his two favorite insults) and breaking everything in sight. He threw Justice back down the mountain to finish his original mission.

Just confronted Dwayne A. Fork and though he could physically see the metaphorical blood on the man’s hands thanks to his Blessings, his powers, he could not complete the execution. So, he did the next best thing and took him to the the cops. This time a sergeant assured him Dwayne A. Folk would go to trial.

When he got home Justice was not surprised to find his way barred. His father, red with rage, would not let a two-time failure back into the community. Justice had done things the worldly way and he could go live in the world. The mountain was shut to him.

And so, he turned and walked back to the Commons community where, in time, he felt more at home though having to wear a disguise and have an alter ego really sucked and he never grew fond of the tights the other fallen hero’s favored. Still, he could be who he really was amongst the Commons. Not the Vigilante Justice his father wanted, but the True Justice, a protector of all people and a killer of none.

And yes, ALL of that fit onto a 3×5 card, though I’m fairly certain I won’t be able to read it in 10 years because the writing is in the tiniest script ever. Also yes, I did change the guy’s name halfway through the card and then change it back. While I’m sure there are typos above because I’m too tired to proofread this, that was an original problem.

So yeah…that’s what my group critiqued using OSC’s wise reader approach. Which, really, is brilliant. I will try to come back and more thoroughly explain some of this stuff over the next few weeks and months, but for now, I just don’t have the time. Google it. You’ll find lots of stuff.

And then, for the last few hours of the day, we just talked, all 42 (or so) of us. Well, those of us who paid money asked questions and OSC answered them at length. We talked about the business end of publishing. About submitting. We talked a little about agents and what you do and do not have to agree to when signing a contract.

And then we talked about his career specifically. We talked a little bit about the movie Ender’s Game and the 25-year process of getting it from novel to screen.

It was all incredibly cool, and I imagine (hope) it’s just a precursor to everything we’ll go over in the next few days.

And…I’m exhausted. And still have to read boot camper manuscripts tonight.

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Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp: Day 1

Exhaustion. Elation. Yesterday was amazing, though long. I have no idea how Card, who is not a young man, can do these sorts of days. All I had to do was sit, taking notes and my butt and hand were killing me by lunchtime.

We started easily enough, talking about naming characters and working through Conflict vs. Struggle, how the “hook” of a story is a lie and really all you need in a really good story is a Reason to Care.

We also covered Viewpoint (which I was fairly confident in– thanks to Mrs. Mattson’s AP English a million years ago!) and Causality in stories, which has already been helpful with the assignments we’ve tackled so far. Because yes even though it’s the first day, we’ve already had assignments. 

There are 4 questions to Causality:

Why? (the mechanical reason)

Why? (the motive)

What result?


And then, because nothing has just one cause: Else? (Why else? How else? What else?)

Finally we went over the different structures of fiction, what he calls MICE: Milieu, Idea, Character and Event. I’m not going to go into detail on most of this, cuz it’s in his book Characters and Viewpoint, or if you’re really interested and really impatient, you can google it. LOTS of other people on the interwebs have talked about all of this stuff. MICE in particular is popular, as it’s basically just 4 different ways to structure your story. A good jumping off point if you’re unsure where to go and/or where to stop.

For some reason, though I get all of them and could identify a story in a minute, I had a REALLY HARD TIME using it for myself. Which is disappointing because our assignment last evening was to, using only these 5 cards, write down a full and complete story idea– The Promise and The Fulfillment (or the beginning & ending).

Is there anything worse than blank cards staring at you in the face?

Is there anything more terrifying than a blank page…or 5 mini blank pages…?

How we got to those story ideas could be a whole blog post in and of itself, but since I’m trying to quickly summarize the entire 10-hour+ day, here we go:

To come up with the story ideas we were partnered up, those of us without cars together with people who had transportation. Orem is not what you would call a walking-friendly city and we needed to go out and about.

Two of our cards were based on research from the library, two cards from general everyday observations, and one card based on an interview with a complete stranger. Janae, my super sweet partner (and driver!), and I headed to the mall to talk to random strangers for interviews. It was the part of the assignment I dreaded the most, so I was glad she suggested tackling it first.

We met the most adorable young, just newly engaged couple and had a totally unique and unexpected conversation. It was deep and meaningful and we were sitting across from a Macy’s having it. Surreal.

After getting back to the hotel I ate some dinner, chatted with Kyle for a brief moment and got to work expecting it to take me a couple hours. It took 5.5. Four and a half I accomplished Monday night and 1 hour this morning.

But I got it done. And I got some sleep.


And I’m not entirely sure I even did the assignment right, but I have these full little cards and that’s something. (There’s stuff on the back too!)

Most importantly though: I’m happy. In general, I enjoy work. I especially enjoy work that I love and working towards a tangible goal. I’m doing both and I am so happy.

OSC goes on a lot of tangents, which are generally refreshing and entertaining. My favorite was when he said the Daleks (from Dr. Who) were a ridiculous villain and plotline and should be eliminated from the series. I very nearly stood up and cheered for. I’ve hated those rolling salt and pepper shakers ever since the first episode I saw them in.

Also, one last note: Weirdest part of the day was when I sat down across from Jane at breakfast. She’s one of only 3 others that I found before coming out and we had emailed back and forth. Then I went into the room and sat down behind TBK, one of the others. At break I discovered I was sitting next to Martin, the third. I didn’t know any of them before and only had a vague sense of what they looked like from their blogs. And before you think it’s a small group, there are about 50 people in the room, 4 rows of tables. I’m sure someone who likes math could figure out the likelihood of me bumping into any of them on the first day, let alone first thing on the first day.

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