I got to spend a week working with a fantastic group of advanced novelists, led by Martine Leavitt, who is simply amazing. She is insightful and kind without being too kind--kindness in manuscript evaluation is death to a writer. I love that she was honest enough to sincerely point out my flaws (darn commas and the Alpine School District's experiment in the gifted and talented program back in 1979) but so wonderful that she could see what I could not see in myself and my writing.
Things I learned:
1- I CANNOT ever be a first draft and it's done writer - it's there that my comma, colon and fragment issues rear their ugly heads. Yeh, that G&T program that took me out of mainstream English and instead taught us world experiences. I'm not saying I wouldn't do it again, but just because I knew language, did not mean I could miss the basics of sentence structure.
2- I have voice in my manuscripts. I can write like a 11-13 year old boy. I always was a tomboy, add to that the raising of two boys and the living with one other 'boy' who lucky-for-me has not given up his silliness and boy humor.
3- I have 'fabulous' dialogue. Not my word. My manuscripts do all start as conversations (middle of the freaking night conversations) and all I try to do is catch up to my characters during the day, putting them in place and adding the bits between the quotes.
4- I have restraint, a good thing. Pauses make the moments. Let's hope I keep it.
In conclusion, I've learned that the things I lack are teachable. Sentence structure and all that very important stuff--you know, the English rules we were all supposed to learn in Elementary and Junior High--needs to be followed. Caveat: unless it's my character talking - characters can do what they want, they are, after all, characters.
The things I've got, the things I am good at, voice, dialogue, characters--the unteachables, the "you've got it or you don't"--are where I excel.
Oh, and the biggie:
FREAKING WRITE - EVERY DAY - JUST WRITE!!!!!!
p.s. here's a video of clips from the 2010 conference - yes, I'm in it. Something I did not know until this last conference! Yep - blown away.
One last thing - a big shout out to everyone that was there - I'm amazed at how many of you were already my friends - it was awesome to spend some great time together! Come see me at the Orem Library anytime, let's talk shop ;)