The Breakfast Club Redux

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Last night, was the final meeting of my writing workshop.  These eight Wednesday sessions had a profound impact on my book and my perception of myself as a writer.  I need to borrow from John Hughes. I hope he would forgive me. The original tagline… “They only met once, but it changed their lives forever,”  needs to become…”We only met eight times, but it changed my life forever.”

In this workshop, fourteen writers submit twenty-five pages of manuscript, and two per week are reviewed.  We review memoir pieces with great reverence and kindness – that is a life we are talking about, after all. Fiction pieces are typically, mostly lovingly, but brutally torn to shreds. I have a fairly thick skin, and I drove home from my review, popped a Xanax and crawled into bed. I was absolutely done. Fortunately the Xanax did its job and I awoke eight hours later, ready to start again.

Internally I railed against their suggestions and comments. I couldn’t even process them for days. And who are these strangers judging my work? All I know is that like me, they write.  But who are the other writers in my workshop? I’ll tell you who they are.  I summed them up in five minutes.  They are Aging Beauty, ER Doc, Mom Attorney, Mr. Legal Battle, Vietnam Vet, Quiet with Freckles, The Reporter, The English Teacher, Lunatic Fringe, Still Waters Run Deep, Baltimore Bubbe, The Genius, and Christine (I can’t even classify her, fabulocity just oozes from Christine).  Ok that is only thirteen.  To be fair I did give myself a nickname. I am very definitely The Whore. I was the only writer who offered up a sex scene.  And that is daunting, too, let me tell you! So if the shoe fits…

Every week, I would read the work of two more writers and their stereotypes fell away, and were replaced by actual names and real live people with unbelievable stories. Some wrote fiction and others wrote memoir and every week I left workshop saying THESE PEOPLE ARE AMAZING.

I started the workshop because writing was isolating. Who can understand such laser sharp focus on something that does not exist, except another writer.  When I started eight weeks ago, I was some woman writing and I needed people. Now I am a writer, and I have people and I am grateful.

About a week after my review session, I edited in every single comment from my instructor and co-writers.  Literally every single one.  They were all on the mark.  My book is so much better for it.  So…

Dear Writers,

Thank you all.  You rocked my world and I will be forever in your debt. Getting to know you has enriched my life. In the immortal words of Simple Minds, Don’t You Forget About Me.

Sincerely,
-The Whore

 

The Sexy Between The Sentences

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My characters have a lot of sex. Shouldn’t they though? But writing a sex scene isn’t as easy as you might think.  Doing is one thing. Telling is another thing entirely. How much detail is sensual, without crossing over into erotica.  Erotica is lovely, if that is the intended genre.  I think for me, for writing anyway, it is not. All too easily a character can be shamed into putting on nipple clamps and a butt plug to sell her poor author’s book. My female lead, Anna, and I have a deal, no S & M if she can be sexy without forcing me to write an instruction manual for virgins. Doing It For Dummies? You all do know what is below the naval and above the knees on a woman. I know you do. And as much as I love all of the words (I really do), are there any sexy words to describe the male anatomy? Directly? That is a real challenge.

Writing a sex scene is an exercise in pure meditation. You have to block out each and every family member, everyone you know now, knew way back when, or might meet in the future. You have to push out the Starbucks barista blending your coffee, the neighbor passing with a dog on a leash, the guy on the next bike at the gym. Oh God if the receptionist at work knew! Everyone get out of my head. And stay out!

It only works if you are head over heels in love with your characters. I am. The sexy is between the sentences for me. Bring your own memories into the experience and share it with us.

Let me beat around the bush a little.

Freeing The Pain 

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With all of this thinking and all of this writing and all of this attempt at creation, a new section of my brain seems to have opened up. And that cleaving, that veritable exposing of my psyche, has hurt like a motherf**ker.

Years ago someone very close to me shared the following observation… you have three emotions, she said, happiness, anger and anger.  And that was working out just fine for me. Well little did I know that when I decided to climb into the fictional heads of my fictional characters, their fictional feelings would become very real to me.  Suddenly, sadness and loss, guilt and insecurity, vulnerability and indecision could only get to them through me. And that really really hurts (thank God for red wine). It is not unlike childbirth, but the outcome is very different. I felt a bit like Melisandre, without the fabulous red hair (G.O.T. reference, sorry), birthing, well, birthing something. In my writing workshop someone called it bleeding on the page.  That is exactly it.  And that bleeding is excruciatingly painful.

Fortunately my characters get laid a lot too, and so there is that.