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Writing for the Pastoral Life, Day the Fourth

November 14, 2010


It snows in Woodstock, you know.


Well, no update for yesterday because the format was the same, and there’s a lot that goes on in our sessions that you really just need to be here to experience. I’m not sharing the content of our critiques or what folks have written about, because that is their stuff to publish. We ended last night with dinner at Firestones, a flatbread pizza place with a wood oven. I’ve been rotating through sitting with different folks at each meal and really trying to tap more into my “extrovert” (haha) side to make the most of the experience. I find the more conversations I’m having here, the more I’m learning. I arrived with a little of the same trepidation that I sometimes carry to Biennial or Synod, like “how will I have time to meet enough people to make this worthwhile,” or “will I just get overwhelmed and do too little.” Here at WPL I’m finding it easier to soak things in; part of the credit had to go to having interesting colleagues.

Today I got up early and kept at the editing process. I’ve made some real headway on the current novel, which I’ve been working on since last November. I thought I might be coming up here to write more, but the truth of the matter is that I don’t need to write up here: I write ALL THE TIME at home. What I needed to do up here was to get unstuck on the book and figure out the next few scenes I needed to write to wrap it up. When I’m in a book, I don’t always know where it is going, because I tend to just “throw it all on the page” and then sort it out in edits. Works so far. Problem is, I get way ahead of myself and forget that I have to keep connected to the stuff that happened too long ago for me to remember. So this has been great having blocks of time to get reconnected.

Then I went out to reprise my hike up the side of Mount Tom and wouldn’t you know it? Right near the Summit, just at the last leg where we stopped last time? I twisted my ankle. If you don’t know, I’ve sprained my left ankle more than twenty times, as in rolled it right around flat. Hurts like a…well, use your imagination. So I figured I’d better head back down the mountain. Which I started to do, and then…yep, stepped on a root and twisted it AGAIN! I yelped pretty good on the second one, so I may have scared away whatever animals had been tracking me for breakfast. But I did have a long limp back down the mountain to get ready for church. I ran in and got the ice bucket and alternated a bag of ice with hot water from the shower and I kept it elevated as long as I could. The thing is wrecked already, but I wanted to be able to walk today.

We worshiped as a group at St. James Episcopal Church of Woodstock. Nice church, lovely folks. I met a UCC family who worships there. We didn’t identify ourselves as a Pack of Pastors (is it a pack? Or a gaggle? Or a murder, like crows?) until after the priest had preached her sermon. Afterwards I found I was the only one who made it back to the coffee hour. I felt bad for my colleagues, because St. James had real, honest-to-goodness Fair Trade Coffee that was brewed right! Fantastic cup of coffee. Thanks to whomever took that to hand.

We had a full brunch provided by the Inn and then did a short session on using real folks in our work and also on editing and working with editors. It was good for some of the more nuts-and-bolts stuff that some folks may have needed. I found the discussion about using real people in our work a little tough, but I think that’s what I needed: there really are no hard and fast rules, just as there are no hard and fast edges to what you do use and what you can’t. More than anything, the idea of discussing a touchy situation with someone rather than just writing about it and asking forgiveness seems like the path of discretion.

I had a great consult with Marge Barrett about where the novel is going and she gave me a slew of authors to read who seem to be working in a similar vein. I’ve been ignoring too much new literary fiction, so that was a nice reminder to get back in with some helpful guideposts.

My father and his brother Donald met me for dinner after I spent the rest of the afternoon editing. It was nice to see them both, and I really appreciated them taking the time to swing by from Chelsea. I don’t see Uncle Donald as much as I used to at family gatherings; nobodies fault, the just the rhythm of children and grandkids. But it’s always been easy to hang out with them.

After that? More editing. It’s slower than writing is for me. I really have to dig into it. But I’m now confident this draft will be edited and caught up by the time I leave on Wednesday. At least I’ve got a nice setting to do the work in!


I sit. I cook. I edit.




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One Comment
  1. What a fantastic opportunity! I’m so glad you’re getting the chance to spend some serious time with your writing. I hope you have a great last couple of days there. Take care of that ankle! — MRC

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