Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Michael's First Words

I've got some exciting news that I'm bursting to tell you. Tune in tomorrow for the big reveal.

For now, enjoy how Michael transformed from questions in my brain to words on the page. He surprised me!

Vermont College and Answers
from "Storm's Story" on
Monday, April 14, 2008

In July of 2002, I started to discover the answers to the questions that kept swirling in my brain.

The summer before, I’d gone to SCBWI’s LA conference. I came away impressed that I needed to professionalize my writing skills and start taking myself seriously as an artist. I began searching and discovered Vermont College’s amazing low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. Here was a master’s program, devoted to the children’s/YA field, that I could do while being a mom in London, Ontario.

The toughest thing about the application was finding a writer to recommend me. I had zero contacts and connections. No critique group. No SCBWI friends in Canada. My academic contacts were stone cold. But I sat by an lovely woman in LA who had given me her card and lots of encouragement, Naomia Zucker (BENNO’S BEAR). She was kind enough to write a recommendation for me. Voila! I got in.

The keystone of the VC experience is the two weeks spent in residency prior to the intense semester spent studying one on one with some of the best writers in our field.  My first residency was July 2002. I was nervous and scared and fell absolutely in love with everyone and everything (except the mean girl clique and the dorm beds). The lectures, the workshop experience, my wonderful classmates. Wow. Overnight I had a writing community. In that very first residency I got to hear Katherine Patterson, Karen Hesse, Tobin Anderson, Norma Fox Mazer, and many more.

The graduate assistants ran a session to introduce the new students to free writing. We were told to remember a sound, to put our pen to the page, and not stop until they called time.

Michael’s voice flowed out of my pen and filled up the page.  Here’s what he said:

I jump in and start breathing through my reg. The sound of sucking in, blowing out fills my head. My gut tightens like it always does. Sploosh. Swoosh. Bubbles flow out the back. Face down. Air out. Descent. Suck in. Long count. Don’t hold it. Blow out, blow out, blow out, smooth and slow. My bubbles interrupt the deep blue serenity of the world below. Then a short blast of air for buoyancy control. Quiet fin strokes. Arms glued at my side. The ocean of wonders opens to my view. Coral fronds of orange yellow pink green sway . . .

It’s just a rough free-write, but here it is. The first hint of the guy whose voice would haunt me with his story for months and months that turned to years and years.

This is the scan of the actual free write. I gave the original to BYU when I donated my papers to their special manuscript collection.

Since then, I've become a huge fan of free writes. I use them all the time--especially when I'm stuck. I give myself an assignment, put it beside my bed, and in the morning right after I wake up pick it up and scribble away. Visit my new liv2writ blog for a rambling post on free writing

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