It’s been a few days since I last wrote. I’m feeling a bit tense and cranky this afternoon, knowing my VONA writing residency starts tonight. Today’s meeting is an orientation for everyone attending this session; tomorrow we begin the week of daily meetings and mentoring that comprise the workshop proper. I think I mentioned before that I have absolutely no idea what to expect. There’s a page on the VONA website explaining what the week will look like, but residency students don’t have the same schedule as workshop participants, and I’m not staying on campus, so I doubt my experience will be as they describe. In my last entry I told you I read some of my classmates’ manuscripts and was blown away by how good they were, but this morning I read the rest of them and my feelings were more mixed. It’s probably good for me to not know what I’m getting into. But I confess I feel a little apprehensive.
Yesterday was pleasantly weekend-ish at least. We had to take the car in for maintenance, so we explored El Cerrito on foot and found several yard and estate sales (two of them at the top of a hill! my legs are sore from the steep mile-long climb), where I bought some more crafting supplies. In the evening, we went to my yoga teacher’s birthday party. I made her this combination hair clip and brooch out of an old silk shirt she’d given me to craft with.
When I wasn’t walking to sales and enjoying Kimber’s party, I was devouring Amelia Peabody mysteries. I have been completely captivated by these for some weeks now, and I’m still only about halfway through the 19-book series. They’re swashbuckling and romantic and as epic-ly dramatic as any soap opera, which is of course delightful, but I’m most in love with the characters. I can’t stop reading because I want to know what happens to them and what they’ll do next. It struck me last week that there aren’t too many series out there that deal with such a tight, small group of characters for quite so many books, with as much insight into the protagonists’ character and thoughts. Harry Potter is seven books long; Anne of Green Gables eight; Little House (Laura Ingalls Wilder) nine(ish). The Peabody series is not only longer, but it gives us more of their characters’ perspectives than any of these others, since we get not only Peabody’s first-person narration, but also letters from her daughter and a manuscript by her son. After finishing a pivotal volume last night (it was a doozy!), I’ve had to restrict myself from picking up the next one before VONA… otherwise I will never get in the right state of mind for a serious writing workshop; my head will be full of Egyptian adventures and I won’t want to talk to anybody.
In some ways it’s a pity that VONA starts tonight, because I’ve just figured out a bunch of stuff which will, I hope, help me balance my life even better and make even firmer commitments to the pursuits I care most about. (The residency trips this up a little because I have to put the rest of my life on hold for a week while I’m doing it.) While I was out all day on Friday, I had the happy idea to make a list of things I’d like to change in my life — inspired by the lists Amelia Peabody makes whenever she’s trying to untangle a complex mystery. As Peabody knows and I have learned, when we’re confronted with complicated problems, sometimes the best thing to do is to ask the simplest questions. Erik has been demonstrating this by example for years now. These sound like questions you’d ask a two-year-old — “Does this make you happy?” “Why are you doing this?” “Do you like it?” “What do you really want?” — but it’s shocking what they can reveal; I don’t think we ever dare to really ponder these questions until we’re asked point-blank.
So, following the fine examples of Erik and Amelia Peabody, I made a list with two headings: Things I Want To Change in My Life and What I Can Do About Them. I ended up with nine items, ranging from “I always want to postpone my singing lessons these days because I never practice anymore,” to “I’m not spending enough time on the pursuits I claim I want to devote my life to.” From there, I went carefully through all my options and then made an action list, then did as many of those actions as I could while I was out (many of them involved brainstorming or articulating opinions and feelings). As soon as VONA is over, and maybe even before, I’m going to put these new ideas into action!