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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Literary Boot Camp? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Literary Boot Camp?
autumnmuse
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Okay guys, I could really use some advice and/or info. Have any of you done this class with OSC? I am considering going this summer (assuming I would be accepted) but I have a number of factors influencing me, and any information you guys have would help me out a lot.

The financial aspect is not minor; but if we don't buy anything we want to with our tax return I may be able to scrape enough cash together. The other, more major issue is this: I have a daughter who will just be one year old and unweaned. Is his class worth being away from her for a whole week? Now, I realize that none of you can make my decision for me, but any answers to the following questions would be appreciated:

If you have gone, how have you grown as a writer as a result?

Is there a lot of benefit to the class that cannot be gotten from reading OSC's books?

I have a lot of problems with my plots. I am pretty good at world-building, and I can usually find my characters' "voices" but I don't know what to do with them. Will this class help me with that? Reading books about plot has not.

How often are Literary Boot Camps held? He mentions another one in 2006; does he do them annually? Or is this the first time in several years he has offered one?

OSC has always been one of my very favorite authors, and I respect him enormously. I am not a Mormon, but I respect his belief. I would absolutely love to meet him in person and hopefully learn what he can teach me. But because I have family responsibilities I don't want to just be led by my desires in this instance.

Thanks in advance for any comments!

Also, are any of you thinking of attending? It would be great to meet in person!


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Christine
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Number one: It is DEFINITELY worth it.

I assume, BTW, that you are talking about the entire boot camp and not just the literary class, because there is a difference.

I have grown as a writer because of the experience. There is no question. I think of my life as a writer in "pre-boot camp" and "post-boot camp" terms.

Now, for the last few years these boot camps have been an annual event. This means that there will probably be an opportunity for you next year, after your daughter is weaned. On the other hand, sometimes you have to make your life suit your own needs. There is always a reason NOt go go...money, etc.

A full year of breast feeding? Doesn't she bite by then?

Sorry, just an interjection.


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autumnmuse
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Yeah, Christine, I agree that there are always reasons not to go. Next year I may be pregnant again, or have an even younger baby. Or not. But if I have an opportunity now, I feel like I would be a fool to waste it. On the other hand, motherhood is more important than writing (although sometimes when I'm in the groove and writing and Claire cries, I have to remind myself of that fact!) Plus I live in Colorado, and OSC mentioned that a slight preference would be given to Westerners this year, which means that Easterners will get the nod next year. I may need all the edge I can get to get accepted; I don't know if my writing is good enough. (Yes I mean the whole week.)
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Rahl22
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Bootcamp 04 alum, reporting as ordered.

I thought it was worth it. Now, the two day series of lectures was tremendously interesting, but they follow his book fairly closely. He does interject his little pearls throughout, though. And you'll not be bored for an instant.

The truly cool aspect was the bootcamp portion. Spending three days doing nothing but reading and critiquing (and being critiqued) was eye-opening. Truly. It will really give you practice, and seeing OSC's critiques of everyone's stories is like seeing the eighth wonder.

It wasn't immediate, nor was it drastic, but my writing has improved because of it. It really started to kick in about a month after bootcamp. Bit by bit, it trickled in. I'd say I'm considerably better now than I was then--in part because of things he taught us and because it upped the ante in my dedication.


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Christine
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You know, autumn, I remember one of the things OSC said at boot camp was to remember that family is more important than writing. He said something very much like "the world will not come to an end if you don't write." I took his meaning but found myself saying, "Yeah, but *my* world would be less complete." Still, family and friends are always the most important thing.

And that's one of the reasons I write. I don't have kids yet but I'm nearly to that point. (I've been married a year and a half, I'm nearly 28, I'm running out of reasons to put it offf...) When that happens, the last thing I want to do is have to live vicariously through my children. It is one of the worst mistakes I think parents make. I know it probably sounds a bit convoluted, but I think one of the best things I can do for my kids is to have competence, confidence, and fulfillment. Then I need only encourage them to be the best they can be without needing them to make up for the holes in my life.

There are always breast pumps. And it is just a week. And after a year of being tied to the baby by the nipple you probably deserve a week off.

BTW, what does your husband think?


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autumnmuse
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Well, he hasn't totally committed to the idea. I told him I was posting this thread and he'll read it before he decides. The impact for him is more financial; we already had plans for our tax return. Of course, many of those plans were my idea, and if I'm willing to change my mind, maybe he will too.

As far as the weaning thing goes, I think I'm going to have to wean her soon anyway. My hubbie and I are going on a trip to Vegas in April, and I was originally planning on taking her along, but the more I think about it, the more I realise that it would be really nice to have some marriage time sans baby. So I may end up taking the plunge and weaning her by mid-April anyway, at which point going in June for five days won't be such a big deal. My mom is fully willing to watch her, which also helps.

I really really want to go to Boot Camp, but you guys can still help convince my husband!!!


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EricJamesStone
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You might want to read this thread from before the 2004 Boot Camp: http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum1/HTML/000946.html

[This message has been edited by EricJamesStone (edited March 08, 2005).]


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Christine
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Uh-oh, husband convincing, huh? Well, let me switch gears a bit.

Dear autumn's husband:

As a participant in the 2003 boot camp I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that this is a one of kind experience that cannot compare to anything else. If you have read Card's novels, you know he is a competent and highly regarded writer. What you may not know is that he is at least as good a teacher as he is a writer. He has a way of putting a class at ease and he keeps them hanging on his every word through humor and an exceptional lecture style.

If autumn has read Card's books on writing, she has tasted the tip of the iceberg. This is a sample of what she should expect at boot camp. For the first two days, he does say a lot of what he says in his books, but in a live action format that cannot be captured in a book. He demonstrated two separate thousand idea sessions in those two days. Participating in such an exercise is dstinctly different from reading about it.

But then he takes questions. All questions. Any questions. We learned about publishing, marketing, plays, writing humor, writing non-fiction, etc.

The first day he set us an interesting homework assignment: Go out onto campus and come up with seven story ideas. Three should come from doing research at a library, three should come from walking around with a buddy and observing the world, and one should come with an interview. (That last one hit me in the gut; I'm terrible at talking to strangers.) But the exercise was sound. Ideas are everywhere, and from just the first two days of class he proved it by making me come up with seven of them!

Then there is a day of frantic writing wherein autumn will turn one of those ideas into a short story. After that, the boot camp begins. Three full days of reading, critiquing, and listening to Card tell you his take on everyone's story, including autumn's. This is when I learned the most, as he has eighteen specific examples to draw on for good and for bad. My own story was picked to pieces but I learned two things from him: First, that I needed to use attitude rather than words of emotion to really gain sympathy for my character (if you want to know more detail, start another thread). Second, that suicides are not good ideas in fiction. I would go on to tell you what minor lessons I learned and what I learned from everyone else's story, but it fills a rather large notebook and I don't have time to transcribe it.

It is a bit pricy. When I went, my husband and I were not quite married, he was making half as much as he is now, and I wasn't making much either. We had a wedding to pay for (in part, my parents were helping) and a lot of other soon-to-be-newlywed financial concerns. Even with all that, I never once regretted a penny I spent on the trip.

By the way, the cheapest room option is to stay in the dorms with other bootcampers. I highly recommend it, both for the price and for the social aspect.

I hope this helps you and your wife to make an educated decision. Obviously, only you two can decide what is right for your family, but hopefully I have helped you understand what boot camp is really like so you can make an educated decision.

Regards,

Christine


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franc li
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Thanks for the insights, Christine. And I'll take you up on that attitudes vs. emotions thread.
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wbriggs
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I did the class, couldn't get into the boot camp. I got a lot from the class, especially about how to come up with ideas quickly. I don't understand why the boot camp would be so cool, if it's writing and critiquing, since we already do that. CAn someone elaborate?
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mikemunsil
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Dear AutumnMuses' Husband:

As a husband, if my wife went to the extent of posting a thread like this, I would take her 'request' very seriously. I would also feel that she had put me on the spot in front of her friends and that would piss me off. So, I would have to balance my desire to support my wife in her endeavors with my natural male reaction to feeling that I was being manipulated. (I don't do manipulation very well. I tend to get angry and break things.)

I won't say what path I think you should take. That is your decision. For me it would be an easy one; I would say 'Yes!', but, then, my wife is good with a knife. 5'2" of pure female fighting fury. I live in fear of her. *grin* Or so she thinks, anyway.

You have a wife who has taken care of your child for a year. She deserves a break, even if that means that you will be on your own for a week. Hmmm. Babies don't drink beer, so you'll have it all to yourself. You won't have to always be putting the toilet seat down; the child poops herself, why should she care?. Autmnmuse won't be there to criticize you for cleaning the baby's bottom under the shower. You don't have to make the bed. You can belch and your infant will giggle. The list goes on.

This has possibilities!

mikemunsil


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Rahl22
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Eric, glad you posted that link... brings back memories. Now if only I could get into that danged WotF workshop!

Wbriggs, writing and critiquing there is so important because how often do you get to see so many different opinions of one story, not to mention the customized advice of Card? Not to mention you've got four days of nothing but writing-related activities. The dedication is intense and really helps you focus.


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franc li
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Now I love everyone here, but I don't know who of you is a best selling author. I mean, someone could give me advice and they might not have any basis for thinking their way is better than mine. That's the benefit I see. On the other hand, Card knows how to write Card. I'm not sure it's possible to transmit talent directly to others.
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rickfisher
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Card has done one Bootcamp every year since 2001 (the year I went).

franc li--it's not possible to transmit talent, but Card is an excellent teacher, and he has a lot of skills as well as talent. It's incredible to watch him pick apart stories and think of twenty other ways you could have done something (and they seem so obvious after he's pointed them out).

autumnmuse and husband--In terms of cost, think of this course as a full term college course. In terms of hours spent with the instructor, it actually comes out to more than that. In terms of quality, it's WAY better.

wbriggs--you learned a lot, and I'm sure you were able to apply those ideas to your own stories. But I'm telling you that the man who came up with those ideas can apply them to your own story in ways you wouldn't believe. The critiques from the other bootcampers are also, as a rule, extremely good critiques. But in bootcamp you get the opportunity to see Card critique stories that you have either written, or already tried to critique yourself, and believe me, you will learn a lot more than just by attending the initial two-day class.


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Christine
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wbriggs: After giving it some thought, I think the best way to answer your question is this: I would not recommend just goint to the literary class and not the boot camp unless you're within a reasonable driving distance of the class. Even as good a teacher/lecturer as Card is, the real value was in the boot camp portion of the week. There is valuable one-on-one time with an accomplished and respected writer who knows how to explain things and guide newbies.

I learned more about writing in that one week (even having read the books in advance) than I leraned in most of my years attempting the craft combined. If I manage to fulfill my goal of becomming a novelist it will be in no small part due to that class. (I should probably send him an e-mail and tell him that. I think people like to hear things like that.)


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autumnmuse
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Yay hooray! Hubbie will let me apply! And I have my page all ready to submit. Now I just need the registration link to activate.

Grahame says thank you for all the posts.

I apologised to him for putting him on the spot, by the way. I honestly hadn't thought about it that way, mikemunsil, but you were right; I was being manipulative. So I feel an apology is in order to you all as well, for using you to influence my husband.

I'm still glad it worked, though!


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mikemunsil
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I'm glad it worked as well.

Were you manipulative? So was I. :0

I tried to lay a guilt trip on you both, to get you talking more openly. I figured that if you (autumnmuse) had to come to this site to air this issue, then you two were talking at each other, rather than to each other.

So, I in turn apologize for being manipulative. But I am glad you're going. LOL


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Thieftess
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I posted on the thread last year (thanks, Eric!) but I wanted to reiterate what Christine said -- my life has definitely been split into pre-Boot Camp and post-Boot Camp. I got self confidence back that I didn't realize I had lost. I'm going to have a book published. And my life has definitely taken a turn I never thought it would have.

Also -- I won't out her here, but a fellow '03 camper was breastfeeding during class breaks...and she still says it was worth it.

[This message has been edited by Thieftess (edited March 13, 2005).]


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wbriggs
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These amazing reviews, plus looking up the official info, have convinced me:

* I have to do this
* ...next year. I live an hour from the site in Virginia (I assume it will be Buena Vista) -- lucky me! Let you Westerners have the blessings for this year.


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franc li
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autumnmuse- have you thought of trying to find a sitter in Utah? Babies under 2 can still fly on laps, right?
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autumnmuse
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Yes, but I know no one in Utah. And I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the idea of a complete stranger spending ten plus hours a day with my wee one. She probably won't cotton to that too well either.

I have even thought about bringing a babysitter but that would double the cost of meals and hotels, as well as transportation, and I can't afford to.


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HSO
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Having lived in Utah, I don't think you'll find a place anywhere else in the US where you could trust your child to an unknown babysitter like you could there. Utah is just one of those babysitting places... and you could easily start up a rapport with someone now online, before flying out, and have it all set up and ready to go.... but that's probably fairly scary, I admit.

Second point to whoever said this, and I apologize but you hit on a very sore subject with me:

quote:
Babies under 2 can still fly on laps, right?

... no offense to those w/ children, but you'll probably be offended anyway -- stop reading here if you're easily offended. Yes, they can fly on laps, but more importantly, can the adult have a child on their lap during the whole flight? It is my experience (having just flown from London to Sydney, a very long flight indeed, with dozens of children onboard) that most adults can't. And young children want to move about anyway -- they can't sit still for long periods and you can't expect them to do so... so where can they go? Inevitably, they run up and down the aisles, possibly screaming during this time, usually a frazzled parent following trying to catch them.

A second thing is: if food is served, you certainly won't be able to pull your tray table down and eat with a child on your lap. You'll need to put the child in a seat to do this. A seat, I hasten to add, that you did not pay for -- and that's not fair -- especially when some parents displace other passengers in the process, asking if they can move elsewhere. Yes, I saw this happen twice -- once one the way to Oz, and then again on the way back. Very inconsiderate.

However, don't despair, most airlines have the "special" seats at the front of seating section that is usually reserved for parents with small ones -- you can sort of tie up you kid to the wall (or tie up a bassinet of some sort anyway and put your kid in it). Be sure to ask for those seats whenever you fly with little ones.

Lastly, putting a child on your lap while flying can be a real hardship on those sitting next to you. Just ask me, who got a child's chocolately finger in my eye several years ago when flying -- it wouldn't have happened if the kid had his own seat. I finally had enough, complained loud enough to a flight attendant and got moved to another seat. How is that fair? And if anyone says to me or is thinking about saying it's just a child, don't be a jerk -- I'm not talking about the child, I'm talking about the parent. Please keep that in mind as you read on.

I'm not saying people shouldn't fly with their children. I'm just asking people to be considerate when doing so. If your child needs a seat, and all of them really do, cough up the cash for it. If you can't afford it, and the special parents' seats are already booked... well... consider how you are making the other passengers feel before putting a child on your lap. Apologies only go so far. We paid money for our flight too, we deserve a little space of our own, don't we?. Children may be special bundles of joy, but they aren't necessarily to the person sitting next to you. But do know, it's not the child we're angry with. It's the parent. We don't blame the kid, we blame the parent.

Sorry for the rant. Has to be said. Opinions will vary, of course.


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Pyre Dynasty
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I'd like to add a bit to HSO's rant, I also add my apology if this offends.
What if something happend, like a crash or an emergency landing, even the loss of cabin pressure or heavy turbulence? You have a seat belt, an air tank and a floatation device. The child has to share this with you. What if there was a fire and the only way to survive was with that oxygen mask?
Even if it is allowed to seat an infant on your lap I would still advise against it.

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catnep
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Isn't it more of an issue that the child would likely (adorable as she is) be a major distraction during the workshop? I would always be worrying about the babysitter, about not having time after the sessions to contemplate and let things sink in, because we know you wouldn't...I think time with Daddy (and people she knows, and places she is familiar with)would be happier for both mom and child, personally.


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wbriggs
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There was a move, pun intended, to legally force parents to buy a separate ticket for infants traveling by plane. It was killed, because the FAA pointed out that traveling by plane, even in Mommy's lap, was still significantly safer than traveling by car.
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HSO
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quote:
What if something happend, like a crash or an emergency landing, even the loss of cabin pressure or heavy turbulence? You have a seat belt, an air tank and a floatation device. The child has to share this with you. What if there was a fire and the only way to survive was with that oxygen mask?

These are good questions. The hard answer is, your child is probably not going to make it. But neither are you.

Still, let's not hold any illusions about those oxygen masks. A fire in a plane will likely spread throughout the entire plane in a matter of minutes, depending on the situation of course. An oxygen mask will be the least of your concerns by this time. Really, the masks are only for cabin depressurizations, not for protection against smoke inhalation. In a fire, the last thing you want is pure, or mostly pure, oxygen pouring out from those masks, which will make the fire grow quicker and hotter -- much worse.

If a plane does go worst-case, your chances of survival are not-so-astoundingly low. Even if you do survive a crash, you'll have to do some rather unthinkable things to ensure your self-preservation. Those that survive the initial impact, are conscious, and uninjured enough to move themselves, will have to "fight" their way out; climbing over other people, dead or alive, to get to the nearest exit or whatever. The true accounts of aircrash survivors are pretty grim. It's every person for themselves... Worse still, if you feel obligated to help a loved one before and while saving yourself, you'll probably get trampled by someone who has no such obligations.

Flotation devices. Mostly useless. Yeah, you'll float. But depending on where you crash, and more importantly the temperature of the water, you probably won't last very long. Hypothermia will occur in about 15 minutes in cold sea water. 30 minutes max if you're in really good shape and can somehow keep yourself marginally warmer by swimming or treading water. And a 15 minute response time to any crash site, land or water, is uncommon. You're only chance to survive in this situation is to find a large enough piece of wreckage to float on and hope the ambient air temperature is above 40 degrees F before the coast guard finds the crash site.

An emergency landing on ground offers the best chance of survival. If the landing jolt is severe enough, you'll be unable to hold on to your child should they be in your lap at this time. Really, and very grimly, your young baby will be far more injured than they would otherwise be if they were strapped into a seat, preferably a carseat device.

But airlines don't care about any of this. As stated above, the odds of any of this stuff happening are very low. And if it does happen, they are banking on your death. It's cheaper to pay your families some sum of money than it is to design and retrofit a safer flying environment. But how safe can you make a plane anyway? Probably a lot safer, but the force of a high speed, high mass impact, and the ensuing fires, would likely negate any improvements. Except for one improvement, perhaps:

Seat orientation. People, for whatever reason, prefer to be facing forward when in plane (or any vehicle, really)... if we all sat facing the back, we'd probably have far fewer deaths or injuries in a crash. And you could probably hold on to a small child somewhat easier, as they would be forced into you, not away from you.


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MaryRobinette
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Back on target for the thread... Is anyone else obsessively checking the Bootcamp page to see when they post the registration links?
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autumnmuse
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About 20 times a day . . . but I wouldn't say that's obsessive . . . Are you going to apply?
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HSO
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quote:
Is anyone else obsessively checking the Bootcamp page to see when they post the registration links?

No. Utah is too far away from London. If it were in N.C., or even anywhere on the east coast of the US, I'd put much consideration into applying for a seat. As it is, I'll just have to wait.

At least the location changes every year. That's pretty cool, and it makes it easier for people all over to get to a bootcamp eventually.

Really, I'd be happy with just meeting OSC and thanking him for his books, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I lived in Greensboro for a few years, and my roommate worked in a bookstore that (supposedly) OSC frequented. Still, I never once met OSC in Greensboro. Unless I waited on him when I worked at Bennigan's in Greensboro in '94... might've happened.

Maybe OSC will hold a bootcamp in England or Europe someday...? And maybe I'll win the lottery, too; now that MaryRobinette has given permission. Go on, Mary, give OSC permission to hold a bootcamp in England. Go on.

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited March 18, 2005).]


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MaryRobinette
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I give Mr. Card permission to hold Bootcamp in London.

But only if he accepts me into the program here first.


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cvgurau
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Well, I'm convinced.

Now, if only $800 will appear in my bank account, I'll believe in God.

Otherwise, I'll have to scrape, beg, and panhandle.

I'll bet my couch weilds a dollar or two.


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autumnmuse
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In case you guys didn't notice, the link is now active!!!! Yipppeeeee!
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MaryRobinette
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Woo-hoo!
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djvdakota
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Active!?!

Fetch! Now the pressure is really on. I am hoping to be able to apply. It all depends on the success of Reverend Clayton.


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autumnmuse
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The dates have changed, in case that makes a difference to anyone. It might make things slightly interesting for me, but if I'm accepted I'll make it work out somehow.
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Elan
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I can only tell you about my experience; you'll have to decide what is most valuable to you. I had a daughter, born in January, whom I was breastfeeding. I was looking forward to the experience because I had to suddenly stop breastfeeding her brother when he was only 5 months old because I developed a whopping case of poison oak that spread to my chest (warning: don't hug a dog who has been happily running unfettered through the scrub oak hillside if you are wearing a low cut shirt).

anyhow, cut to the time two years later when my daughter was born. I planned on breastfeeding for a year or so, but lo and behold a workshop was advertised in San Francisco and I wanted to go. I scraped together the money, bought a ticket and a breastpump and left my husband in charge of the children for the weekend. I was only gone three days.

When I returned, my daughter refused to nurse any more. She had gotten used to the bottle and refused the breast. I was devastated.

Did I get a lot of tremendous value out of my workshops? Yes, much of which is still with me to this day. Would I do it again? No. I felt the price I paid was too high. I always regretted losing the opportunity to breastfeed (I didn't have any more children), and in a way I still regret it twenty two years later.

If breastfeeding isn't that emotionally important to you, then go ahead and go... but if it IS, I'd hang in there for one more year and go next year. It will give you more time to prepare, both as a mom and as a writer.

Just my 2 cents worth.


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autumnmuse
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Removed to protect privacy of certain individuals.

[This message has been edited by autumnmuse (edited May 02, 2005).]


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Robyn_Hood
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I can understand how you are feeling, well sort of. First of all congratulations on the compliment. Second, I personally don't think that brainstorming is cheating. It is part of the process and that is part of why we are all here -- to get input from sources outside ourselves.

But you have to go with what you are most comfortable doing.

If you're all right with it, why not start a brainstorming thread to get some ideas flowing. You may not end up taking any of the suggestions, but a discussion might help trigger something inside you that will work for the story.


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shadowynd
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Congratulations!!!

Don't slight your story, or its ending, in hopes that he'll think it "bad enough" to let you attend. Write a cover letter explaining that you definitely think you have MUCH to learn from attending bootcamp. Be specific, if you can, about areas on which you'd like to work.

Send the rest of the tale that you have written. Say that you are having trouble with a decent ending. Summarize the ending that you think is lame, letting him know that it is unsatisfactory to you. Ask for suggestions.

Then, last but not least, tell OSC that if you are "too good" for his bootcamp, that this is ultimately his fault for providing such a wonderful resource as Hatrack!! *G*

Good luck!!

Susan


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Rahl22
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Wow. Now I feel like a schmuck for having been accepted! Congrats, and all that jazz.
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shadowynd
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ROFLMAO!!!! What a dilemma!!! *G*

Hopefully next year I'll be in a position to apply, myself. And accepted or told I'm too good to go, either way I would feel very very honoured.

Susan


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autumnmuse
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Well, I wrote it and sent it off. I'm going to post it in F&F, as I'd like some feedback on the whole thing.
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Thieftess
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Wow, sweetie, congratulations. I imagine you are both honored and scared as hell...any sane person would be.

I do hope, no matter what, that you still get to go to Boot Camp. So much of what you learn is just from that unique experience. I am very proud of you and wish you all the best...but I certainly do not envy you, not one little bit.

Good luck--
~Alethea


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djvdakota
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Huge congratulations! I hope you get to go anyway! What a bum, to have the nerve to tell you you're too good!
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EricJamesStone
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I've half a mind to send OSC an email telling him that he can't join my writers' group because he's too good. We'll see how he feels after that!
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autumnmuse
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Edited to maintain privacy.

[This message has been edited by autumnmuse (edited May 02, 2005).]


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Rahl22
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Well, if he's editing that zine himself, that's what editors do with accepted stories.

Damn, I wish I knew what that felt like


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autumnmuse
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Removed for privacy.

[This message has been edited by autumnmuse (edited May 02, 2005).]


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djvdakota
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OK. I'm just going to get it off my chest.

Autumnmuse--I am jealous. Envious. Green. Coveting.

ERG! Now I have to go and repent!

Seriously, I'm so happy for you. What an incredibly amazing opportunity!


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MaryRobinette
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Thank heavens. I'm in, which does not stop me from sharing Dakota's feelings.
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