Saturday, May 7, 2011

Highlights Workshop: Day 7

The thought of going home tomorrow hangs over us like a ponderous fog.

Yes, that may be a bit melodramatic, but today was filled with lots of wistful sighs and all-around mutterings of, "I can't believe this is the last time we'll..."  We all wish we could stay just a little longer, but I suppose all good things must come to an end.

The new retreat center.  Elegant can be rustic.
Today wasn't all pining, though.  After breakfast, Kent Brown, the Executive Director of Highlights, took us on a tour of the new farmstead facility currently in construction.  It's a beautiful barn-styled building which will now house the group meeting and eating part of the workshops.  We just missed the grand opening (it's slotted to open May 15), so we're one of the last groups who will ever hold their workshops in the old white farmhouse.  As nice as the new building is, I'm actually glad our workshop was in the old one.  Sure, it may be a little tight on space, but it's cozy and inviting, providing the perfect environment for nurturing our creative minds and souls.  I don't doubt the new farmstead will be equally inspiring and wonderful, but I feel lucky I got to experience the intimacy of the farmhouse setting, bumping elbows at the dinner table with my new friends.

Sideways view of the new building.
Since all our peer critiques were concluded yesterday, we spent that time today talking about the revision process and sharing our revision plans as a group.  Our faculty discussed their methods of revision and we shared our helpful self-editing tips with each other.  There is no hard and fast rule for the "proper" revision process--it all comes down to what works for you and your novel.  When in doubt or feeling overwhelmed, they suggested approaching your novel with baby steps, taking out an adverb here and changing a sentence there until you can work up to the bigger things.  And don't despair if you find revision hard; even authors with multiple books under their belts can find it difficult to face that beast. 

From my personal experience, I recommend going into revisions with an open mind (even though it's REALLY hard to do sometimes!)  As a personal security blanket, I like to keep a document open where I paste all the phrases, sentences, paragraphs (and even chapters) I cut or change but still feel attached to.  That way, I don't feel like my brilliant (ha!) words are disappearing into oblivion and I can always retrieve them if I realize they should stay after all.

The revision chat counted as our usual group workshop, too.  Instead, we met this evening for a general wrap-up.  After our last group dinner (which was lamented by all), we gathered for a "show and tell" session where we each brought something to share that was different from our workshop manuscript.  Some people shared poems or funny essays or now-deleted excerpts of stories (those ones they wanted to keep but cut for the overall benefit of their manuscripts like I mentioned above!)  I shared the first chapter of my brand new novel. :)

After that, we had some sentimental moments and the authors signed books which we get to take home for our very own.  We're all exhausted from this knowledge-packed week, but none of us want to go to bed and wake up to face our impending departure.

Our food today did not disappoint; I will miss the Highlights mealtimes dearly.  Breakfast was carrot-cake bread, coffee cake and oatmeal with that delicious apricot compote from earlier in the week; lunch was chicken salad wraps ("the good kind, with grapes!"), parmesan pasta salad and chocolate-cranberry cookies; our evening-chat snack was spring rolls and piggies in blankets; and dinner was baked chicken with Southern squash casserole, zucchini pancakes and strawberry-rhubarb meringue for dessert.  We followed that up with Sangrias all around, toasting our amazing week.

Now it's time to pack up and enjoy my little cabin in the woods for one last night.

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