Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Got ten hours of sleep. I walked next door to the Marriott and went to the registration table just outside the conference room. Orson Scott Card’s wife (Kristine) was on the phone. She apologized and then asked for my name. Since my name is alphabetically friendly, my name was at the top of the list. As I got my name tag, I noticed the title of my submitted writing at the top of the front page of a handout. I was wondering if this meant he thought it was the worst of the submissions and was planning on using it to show how not to write. Or maybe he thought it was the best of the submissions and was planning on using it as a good example. Or maybe it was there simply because my name is alphabetically friendly. The handout had the first four paragraphs of my short story “Imp.” No names were included on any of the excerpts.

My name tag had “Boot Camp” under my name. This indicated I was one of the 15 who qualified for the last part of the week. I took it along with the handouts and found a seat.

Eventually, there were about seventy people in the room. Long tables with pitchers of ice water. A wide variety of people. Card showed up at 9:00 a.m. He emphasized that we should not have any plans for the evening because the workshop would last well into the evening. He told us that we would be reading the handout of excerpts and also writing about a page and a half during lunch.

We started with developing a story idea together. He used a large pad of paper to write down ideas. A great deal of his lecture was commentary about the various ideas. Much of it had the heft of Biblical standards. He was funny and obviously excited about what he was saying.

I had no idea who the other 14 boot camp participants were yet. I assumed that those with laptops were likely, since that was a requirement.

At 1:00 p.m. we broke for lunch. He gave us two assignments. Read the handout (we would discuss them after lunch—asking for opinions about them). We were also to write one full page about one hour of our life last week. We were to write it in third person and it was not to be about anything too exciting. We were to not use our real names.

I hurried back to my room and read the excerpts. Then I wrote a full page about the games at camp that took place last Sunday night. I hurried to Starbucks and got to the conference room on time.

After lunch he picked about 5 different people to read their writing assignment and then we traded with the person next to us. He was very encouraging to them, but effectively used their examples to teach us. During this, I spotted two other people who had the Boot Camp name tag.

After lecturing until about 5:30, he split us up into teams and gave us an assignment. Five index cards were handed out. (One guy in the audience asked if we should call them “Orson Scott cards.”) We were to use these cards to come up with five different stories by tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. One idea had to come from interviewing a total stranger. Two had to come from just things we observed in San Diego. Two had to come from research at a bookstore (one idea intentionally sought out and one we just happened upon). He had all the people stand up who did not have cars (which included me). A girl and her boyfriend offered for me to tag along with them. They also provided a ride for another guy. So Cynithia, her boyfriend Nick, Brennan and I set out to work on the assignment.

Cynthia is a journalist for a small local publication. Nick is a recent college graduate from Sweden with a British accent. Brennan is a middle-aged computer guy with long hair. We drove a short ways to a Barnes and Noble that had once been a movie theatre. Cynthia and I interviewed a young guy named Eric who was in the magazine section. Then we split up and did our research. We regrouped and walked to a Chinese place called Pick Up Sticks, a poor contender for Panda Express. We talked about movies and books. On the way there and back, we kept a lookout for interesting observations. I got back to my room around 7:30 and typed out my notes. Then I took a short walk along the waterway out behind the hotel to think and to look for more ideas. Back in my room, I worked until about midnight on my five ideas. My interview was Eric, my observations were a full-size Naval ship just outside my room and a group of ladies having a picnic on the bank of the waterway. My research ended up being mushrooms and the Berlin Airlift. After I developed my five ideas and wrote them on the index cards, I called it a day. In the morning, we would read one of our cards out loud to the whole group. I’m going to read my idea based on mushrooms.


abbie said...

Mushroom index card transcript requested.

Oh, and good job being social! Did you start out in the back corner like you like to do? :)

Jarud said...

Wow! It all sounds so exciting. Half way through your post, I was already getting stressed about the writing assignments. I am glad you are enjoying it. Battleships and picnics. What a contrast! Keep us posted. :)

abbie said...

Looks like somebody's having to write more than he expected... :) Either that or the earthquake got him. I'm pulling for the first.

Bret Carter said...

Yes, I sat a little ways back, but not the very back. Yes, it's a little stressful, but mostly fun. And the mushroom index card is pending since I want you guys to read the story rather than just the notes. The card includes the ending.

Mark said...

This sounds awesome!

Wait, I should use better writing skills.

"This sounds VERY awesome!"