Clarion Write-a-thon Team Report: Week 1

This week’s slightly belated compilation of reports from five of the write-a-thon teams:

Jim Shea, reporting in from The League of Argyle Socks:

We’ve finished Week 1, and those reporting in from the League of Argyle Socks are moving along. Greg Frost (Clarion alum, teacher and all-round swell guy) reports that he’s “revising a novel to get it ready for agenting. The work has been pretty steady so far (interrupted for some days by the need to write and revise an 11,000 word contractually obligated story; and if anything the Write-a-thon propelled me through that, too). Now back to the work in progress, and coming up on the sections of it where the revision will get rough and I will be whipping out the fountain pen and ink and hand-writing new versions of some chapters, which is my normal ‘zero draft’ methodology for starting a story and for revising something that needs heavy re-invention.” Yikes, he’s working hard.

Mary Lewys, who is totally kicking butt over the rest of us in terms of fundraising (you go, girl!), is working to finish the novel she started in the 2012 Write-a-thon.  She wanted to finish it before now, but didn’t — the Write-a-thon is giving her the focused time and energy to do it!

That’s what the Write-a-thon is all about.

No news yet from Bob Crais (who’s teaching week 3 of this year’s Workshop and may well be reading stories in preparation) or John Kessel, but we know they’re out there…

As for me, I’ve got one possum described, out of the six that are my goal. What’s a possum described? Well, when you’re rewriting your rewrite, and you’re not sure where it’s going, and it’s not about the words but the structure, the characterizations and getting-the-whole-thing-just-as-you-want-it, well, you got some serious possums to work on. Or with. Or to. Whatever.

BREAKING NEWS: Greg Frost promised a later blog post explaining the history of the League of Argyle Socks. I wore a pair last week, and will wear another (actually, the same pair, the only pair I own) at least once this week and every week of the Write-a-thon! Can’t wait to know why I’m doing that!

From Three Women on a Write Team:
Madeleine Reardon Dimond is succinct in her summary of week 1 writing: “We wrote.”

Ann McHenry: ” Editing is just as hard as I ever thought it would be. So much bad writing to fix!! But every now and then you find that you wrote a really good line, or came up with a really good plot twist and you think to yourself ‘Did I really come up with that? I’m more creative than I thought!”

Marjorie Farrell: As I can never do anything in a simple way, along with starting the Write-a-thon I also signed up for an intensive 3 day pastels painting and drawing class. Ten years ago at a yardsale I found a carved wooden box filled with used pastel chalks. I bought it with the intent to someday take a class. The elderly man who sold them to me told me his wife had been a pastels artist and created award winning pictures. I finally signed up for the class. Of course, in the back of my mind was the hope that I, on first try, would also create award winning pictures, perhaps channeling the previous artist. Wouldn’t that make a delightful story to write? As in writing, pastel drawing is hard work. My pictures ranged from awfully bad to awfully mediocre. No magic story to report. Back to work writing. Pastels for another day. Work, not magic, gets results.

Here’s a quick update from the Narwolves:

Our team has made some great progress this first week of the write-a-thon. Though a few of us are a bit behind in our personal goals (hey, it’s only the first week, right?) a few others of us (Tim Susman, we’re looking at you) have written over 15,000 words already! This brings our team total up to almost 25,000 words. Go Narwolves! As of now we’ve raised several hundred dollars for Clarion and we will continue to raise more in pledges if we get our average word count up. Next week we’re trying for 30,000 words between us. Let the typing commence!

Nancy Etchemendy reporting for the Firesiders:

When I discovered that any qualifying Write-a-Thon writer can create a team this year, I jumped at the chance.  Last year, writers who wanted to participate in a team had to accept a random assignment to whichever team needed members.  But the new, less rigid system allows friends to join up together.  I belong to a small group of children’s book writers who spend a few days together each year at Asilomar on the Pacific coast writing together, talking business, brainstorming, helping each other with writing and non-writing challenges, and walking on the beach.  We have become great friends.  We call ourselves “The Firesiders.”  Productivity is an issue for almost every writer, and I know it is a common complaint among my Asilomar friends.  I also know from past participation that the Clarion Write-a-Thon is an excellent productivity booster.  So I decided to try putting together a Firesiders Write-a-Thon team.

My first job was to get some of my Asilomar pals to sign up as writers.  That was pretty easy.  I put out a call on the Firesiders Yahoo list, and soon there were four of us.  Since writers need to raise a certain amount before they are eligible for teams, the second thing I did was to sponsor each of my friends for $20.  This wasn’t really necessary; any $20 will do and it can come from any sponsor, even the writer herself.  But I planned to make some donations during the Write-a-Thon anyway, and donating enough to qualify my friends speeded things up.  My third job was to contact and let them know we had a team waiting in the wings — a team we decided to call (surprise!) the Firesiders.  Here’s our progress so far.

Susan Taylor Brown is the author of the award-winning middle grade verse novel “Hugging the Rock.”  She is also the author of two picture books and two nonfiction books for kids.  Plus she writes books for the educational market (43 of them!) and has had over 200 articles and stories for children and adults published in various places.  Oh, and did I mention she’s a former columnist for the New Orleans Times Picayune?  Her Write-a-Thon goal is to finish her YA verse novel.  That’s a total of 75 poems in 42 days!  “I can do it!” is her mantra. So far so good.  Susan has her Week One badge for seven straight days of writing!

Bobbie Kinkead says writing is her fifth language.  The other four are moving images, gestures and feelings from others, musical sounds, and spoken words.  Bobbie does both writing and illustration for her children’s books.  She is currently at work on Book III of her “Elvin Letters” series.  Her Write-a-Thon goal is to edit this draft of Book III — a total of 22 chapters.  She participated in last year’s Write-a-Thon as well and found the pledges of her friends and family to be a great motivator.  She has finished five chapters so far and logged four days of writing, in spite of a family vacation.  We are all cheering her on.

Loretta Ichord is the author of five non-fiction middle-grade historical books published by Millbrook Press/ Lerner.  She also writes articles and essays for newspapers and magazines, and has published one short story.  Loretta says, “I signed up because I need to revise a young adult manuscript after receiving an encouraging in-depth critique. I’m energized and determined to take this project to the next level! That’s my goal.”  Her plan is to write for one hour each day of the Write-a-Thon.  She has chalked up ten hours so far and is on a roll!

Then there’s yours truly, Nancy Etchemendy.  I attended Clarion in 1982 and found it to be a life-changing experience.  I’ve been writing science fiction, fantasy and horror ever since, mainly for kids and young adults, and  have even won a few awards along the way.  Now I’m branching out into non-fiction with a YA book about money.  I hope to have a complete draft by the end of the summer.  My Write-a-Thon goal is to write for two hours each day through August 3, and to raise at least $500 for Clarion.  So far I’ve got 18 hours logged, and I’ve earned my Week One badge for writing every day.  I’m halfway to my fundraising goal, too!

Our team is comparing notes, celebrating and commiserating regularly on the Write-a-Thon message board.  Go Firesiders!

Adam Israel, tattling on Dead Oyster Elvises

We, Adam Israel and Keffy Kehrli, each had ridiculously busy weeks, falling short of our personal goals. Keffy wrote some on a short story rewrite. While I didn’t write every day like I’d hoped to, I did manage to finish two chapters.


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