Not Quite a Novel: Sørina’s #3DNC Report

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The Coffee Pot.

The three-day novel contest is over again for this year. We survived, happily, with deeper friendships and great work accomplished. I at least am amazed that we have managed to make this dream come true three years in a row in the face of enormous obstacles. And, as is usual for me, the work is barely beginning. Here are the stats of what was accomplished, a narrative of the weekend, and a plan for what to do next. 

8 Ekphrasians participated in some permutation or other of this intensive writing retreat, composing well over 100,000 words collectively! These words were written in community, alone, in the woods, in a cabin, at a retreat center, at home, in various states of euphoria, inspiration, or drudgery.

IMG_2594* I began a new novel, a murder mystery. I wrote 27,005 words, but only got about 15% of the way into the plot. The story takes place over a 20-hour period, and I only got my characters through the first three hours. They kept doing things that weren’t in my notes!
 * Sharon wrote an entire play. It is called Love’s Labours Happily Ever After, and it blends fairy-tale characters with Shakespearean plot lines from Love’s Labour’s LostMidsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and As you Like it. She completed a full draft at 17,000 words. She also worked through a book about structuring fiction and wrote her outline for her next book!
* Betsy
roughed out the entire plot of her novel, Demae’s Story, writing what she calls the skeleton of the story at 24,000 words.
* Steph is the only one who paid the fee and entered the contest for real. She wrote most of the story she had planned.
* Jeff spent the time working on a play called “Hail Mary.”
* Andrew worked on a novella and wrote about 18,000 words.
* Marian wrote a complete children’s story, called “Piccalilli.” (Which I love, by the way). She wrote a journal, did lots of homework, practiced her lines for two roles she’s got in upcoming plays, and edited some of Aakroveil, the novel she completed earlier this year.
* Devon planned to spend the weekend editing her personal narrative.
If this year goes like previous years, most of us should have complete manuscripts by Christmas, then spend any number of months or years revising, revising, revising. (I also plan to start The Four Senses, my 2013 #3DNC production, over again from scratch. Sigh).

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The situation room, with a map of my cemetery setting.

Unfortunately, most of us had a very interrupted weekend. I traveled up to Massachusetts on Monday to be with my mother, who had unexpected heart surgery. I did get home late on Thursday, and Betsy and I made it up to the cabin on Friday evening, but we didn’t really start working until Saturday morning. Marian got cast in two plays and had rehearsals until late Saturday afternoon, so she arrived Saturday evening. Sharon got cast in one play, is directing another, and had both a funeral and a wedding to attend on Saturday. So she and Betsy worked at home on Friday, then Sharon joined us on Sunday. We all left by 7 on Monday evening. Next year, we all want to join the official contest, get up there earlier, start right at midnight on Friday, end at midnight on Monday, and leave on Tuesday. I plan to develop a plot for a novella that can be completed within 30,000 words.

But what a beautiful time it was! The Coffee Pot, the cabin owned by Betsy’s family, where we have the retreat, is an idyllic location. We enjoyed it thoroughly. We didn’t push ourselves, sleeping eight hours a night, going for long walks, swimming (and washing) in the creek, having hour-long intense conversations. Sure, we could have written more words if we hadn’t taken those mental-and-physical-health breaks. But I think we are happier people for those times. And now we have all those words there, ready for the adding and editing. Stay tuned for selections and for posts by the other Ekphrasians!

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Caption Contest!

Here are several photos by Stephanie H. At our meeting on Monday, we were making up crazy and hilarious captions for them — primarily by modifying or mashing-up Bible verses. Please put your numbered captions in a comment below, then we’ll vote on the best ones. Thanks!

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Ekphrasis Report, 03.03.14 – Commas, Short Presentations, Musical Performances, Asyndeton

March’s Ekphrasis gathering began with Sørina H. leading a workshop on the proper use of commas. As several of the group’s regular members are currently working on long-form narrative fiction, Sørina has been offering some instruction on different English techniques. Several people brought in sample sentences from different works, punctuation removed. After the workshop, several people presented works. The group had been asked beforehand to bring works that could be presented in three minutes or less, rather than the much longer chapters from our respective novels that have marked many of the recent gatherings.

Jeff H. started us off with a page of cryptic notes that he didn’t remember writing (but which was clearly written by him). He found it in a folder on his computer, apparently.

I presented a short work of prose that I’ve been working on, and the group then had a lively discussion as they worked to interpret the meaning behind the piece. I listened to the discussion, but did not participate in it, which was a very interesting and fruitful experience.

Josh L., a frequent attendee but first-time presenter, brought in a series of his photographs. We talked about his composition style and shooting techniques.

Sharon G. unveiled an acrylic painting she’s been working on for several months, a still-life which pictured several different types of glass vessels.

Marian B. read us a short story she’d written called “Steph,” which was inspired in part by Steph H, another person present that evening. It was a funny story, which claimed to be full of inside jokes, but ended up being quite accessible to everyone who heard it.

Betsy G. finished the non-musical presentations for the day with a poem called “The Battle of the Galloping Sausage,” a rousing epic about a food-fight.

The group then moved into the room with the better piano, and the musical performances commenced. Betsy and I have been working (in a very languid manner, I grant) on a duet performance of the song “My Eyes” from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which we presented to the rest of the Ekphrasians. I sang the part of Billy and Betsy sang Penny’s part, and I accompanied on the piano. We’d planned to perform the song with microphones, but it seemed that only one microphone was present in the building. We decided to muddle on anyhow, and sing it without any amplification. This proved to be a mistake. Our execution on that first attempt might have been the best we’d ever performed (extra impressive since we hadn’t sung together since the middle of January), but heartbreakingly, the audience could not hear our beautiful voices.

We decided to try again, and attempt to share the microphone. I moved the bench over so that Betsy could sit next to me and hold the microphone. What followed was not exactly terrible, but did include several false starts and two abortive restarts of the final verse.

Finally, I performed a song I’d written, accompanying myself. The song was a reprise of a longer song from an album I’ve been working on. I hope to make a rough recording of it this week and upload it here, so that all of you gentle readers can enjoy it.

After that, people trickled out slowly. The remaining attendees had an impromptu sing-along party, performing songs from Les Miserables, Frozen, Once More With Feeling and several other works, until the night eventually wound down to a close. Overall, it was a very good meeting.