Archive for June 15th, 2008

6/14/08: Taos Toolbox, days 6-7: Nellie Goes Spung!

Word count: 3804 | Since last entry: 3804

Friday morning we critiqued three stories, the last of the batch submitted before the workshop started. Four people have already turned in stories for next week, and the rest (including mine) are due by noon Monday.

Friday afternoon we engaged in a group plotting exercise, kind of like television or movie writers in a writers’ room. Starting with the concept of “steampunk to the stars!” we wound up with Nellie Bly, Oscar Wilde, and Prince Edward on a colony planet where alien celery (we never nailed down whether or not it was intelligent) gave women intense orgasms and caused mutations in their children. We also had some made-up characters, including a Doctor (the villain) who was an ex-lover of Nellie’s and a gay Archivist who was in love with her in male disguise. The “act outs,” or big finishes to each act, were as follows: Act I, Nellie’s true identity is revealed by the Doctor; Act II, Nellie has her first experience with the alien celery (see the title of this post); Act III, Nellie and the Archivist form a mutually satisfactory relationship with the alien celery, world is changed, happy ending. Very silly, yet educational.

The workshop fee includes basic food for breakfasts and lunches and a nice catered dinner on Monday through Thursday nights, but for Friday through Sunday dinner we’re on our own. This Friday, at Kelly Link’s suggestion, we had a progressive dinner in which each condo (we are divided into several two- and three-bedroom condos, each with a fully equipped kitchen) would prepare a course. It was fabulous. We wound up with an overwhelming amount of food, including a great Greek salad, gaspacho, fennel-carrot soup, stirfried beef with mushrooms and celery (that was me, and the rice turned out fine), and rhubarb-strawberry pie a la mode. Even the condo that consists of three guys who can’t cook produced a three-bean salad, with Kelly’s help.

After dinner I finally started drafting my week 2 story. For a variety of reasons I decided to use on a story idea I had a long time ago about a magical plumber who meets an undine. Yes, it’s a story all about water, it’s set in Portland, and I’m writing it in the desert. Go figure. I stayed up until 1am and got about a thousand words down.

I promised myself if I got to 3000 words before lunchtime today I’d allow myself to get out and do some touristing. I made 2300 words — close enough. Six of us went to Taos Pueblo, which claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the US (1000 years old). The guided tour emphasized how many awful things the white man has done to them (reserving greatest scorn for the Spanish who imposed Catholicism, and Roosevelt who turned their most sacred lands into a national recreational area), and yet St. Jerome’s Church is the central structure of the pueblo and the people are buried under crosses in the graveyard. They strike me as being like the Amish, but more extreme in their rejection of the white man’s technology and culture. Also, the Amish came here on purpose, while the pueblo dwellers were here first. Anyway, after that we hit Taos itself, a touristy little town, for lunch and a little shopping.

I’ve been writing pretty steadily since then, with a brief break for dinner, and I’m up to 3800 words (3400 if you don’t count the outline of the second half of the story that’s lurking at the bottom of the file). I’m stopping now because my brain has stopped working, but I anticipate I should be able to finish tomorrow without staying up too late.

Exterior view of Snakedance Condos

Our condo’s kitchen

Our living room — the spiral stair leads to my loft bedroom