April 25

Preparations for School

Life is growing increasingly hectic as I prepare for my second semester of school.  Outside of  normal responsibilities, I have things I need to read, critique and watch.  I’m also trying to decide what to pack.

When I made this trip last year, I had the luxury of driving down. I say luxury, not because the cross-country trip was easy, though I’ve made the trip so often it’s probably far easier on me than on someone who has never managed it before. I say luxury because cars have the advantage in some areas when it comes to travel. By taking a car, I don’t have to limit my luggage.  As long as it fits in my car it can go, whether it’s edible, leaky, necessary or dangerous. With airlines you either pay a small fortune or are severely limited to what you can take on the plane, and how heavy/large your bag can be. So it’s a tossup on which is better the plane or the airline.  Both are uncomfortable, but you’ll, usually arrive faster on a plane than by car.

So, I’m making and re-making packing lists, trying to prioritize what needs to go and what can stay.  The school stuff has top priority. I need to take the screenplays, books and the schedule with me, along with a handful of other things. Clothes are an obvious necessity, but how much do I take with me? With me staying at my mothers I can do laundry at her house without it costing me anything.  However, I don’t want to be doing laundry every night. Do I take my manuscript, even though my focus is screenplays? Make up, which I rarely wear, but wore every day at residency? Then I need to consider my sister, who will be coming with me on the trip.  She’s seven. This will be her first time on a plane. What do I need to make sure she has in her carry-on? Then I’m trying to get other things done.  Newsletter for the Coeur du Bois Romance Writer’s Group, paying bills, working…looking up ideas on what Young Adult screenplays I should read for the semester…

As stressful as preparing for Residency is, I’ll be glad when I finally get there.  Last year I learned a ton.  The information I received from lectures, workshops and critiques transformed my writing, making me stronger in some areas. My story has made a dramatic change because of what I learned last year.  This year, I expect, will be no different, especially when I look at lectures they’ve announced will be at residency. For me, the semester was fun, a retreat, a vacation of sorts despite the long hours and sometimes stressful, last minute assignments. Plus, things will be less stressful for me once I get into the swing of things and add homework to my regular schedule again.

Until then…well, I’m wondering if the queen of hearts is trying to chop off my head.  I hope not.  The way I’m going right now, I’d never find my head again.

April 23

Boise Run/Walk: First Season Review

I’ve survived an entire season at Boise Run/Walk and loved it.  I say survive because I’m one of those people who shun other people.  I find large crowds exhausting and frustrating; interacting with people makes me anxious. Despite this I thought I’d give Boise Run/Walk a try.

I wasn’t having any luck getting any exercise on my own. However, in my past, when I was held accountable, I got quite a bit of exercise and my favorite of the exercises I had been doing was Running and Walking. So, with the hope that I’d get the same accountability with the group that I’d had with a student personal trainer and a college coach, I signed up for the winter semester.

Almost immediately, I was made to feel welcome but not overwhelmed.  The members were also every shape and size.  Some were life-long joggers/walkers, others, like me were couch potatoes.  We would meet at one of two locations. For the first hour or so, there’d be a discussion on health or running, whether it was proper nutrition, hydration, form or something else.  I learned a lot during these sessions, though I still need to put a lot of it to practice. Prizes were sometimes offered for best answer or best question… I was the lucky winner of one of them. One of the prizes was a gift card at a store I’d never heard of much less been to.

However at the store I learned even more about running from the sales personnel, and got a lot of the equipment I needed to be a more successful walker.  I can’t tell you the difference that simply walking in the right kind of shoes will do for you.  In the wrong shoes, I ended up with blisters so bad I had red skin underneath and my back was killing me.  In the proper shoes, my discomfort was a minimum. Also a hydration belt is a BIG help when you’re walking more than three or four miles, especially uphill.

After the class, everyone would walk around the neighborhood or park. This gave me the advantage of knowing my goal, my destination but not having to see tons and tons of people passing me over and over like they would if we were simply running around on a track or in a gym.  That would have frustrated me and probably resulted in me quitting early on.  But with us in a neighborhood or park, I was usually to my half-way point by the time I saw other members return from their distance.  Those training for Robie almost always went twice the distance I did and ran or jog it.  They’d encourage me to keep going when they saw me with something as simple as “Almost there” or “Keep it up.”

Although most members seemed to be runners or joggers, I found myself in a small group of walkers, who also made sure I didn’t wind up going the wrong way.  I didn’t know the area well, and probably still have a lot more places to explore. However, Boise Run/Walk did introduce me to some great walking/running trails.

My group encouraged me to stretch out sore muscles and keep walking, especially when we were walking uphill.  Although I was slowing them down they were patient, allowing me to take the time I needed.   On flat ground, I was more mobile. I let my group dictate the speed of the walk, as they moved faster than me, so I still got a workout in simply walking.

I never felt intimidated because of a lack of my own abilities, which I’ve felt before in classes.
At one point I ended up needing to take Katelynn, my seven-year-old sister with me on one of the walks.  Either that or miss a Saturday and I’d already missed two thanks to a trip I took in January.  She was welcomed as easily as I was.  She had a blast and insisted on returning with me.  The few times she didn’t return with me, members asked about her.

I tended to push myself too hard when I exercised regularly. So I decided to take Coach Steve’s advice and simply spend the season walking, no jogging, no running.  Simply walk.  Get a base started.  This sentiment was recommended to me by several members as well.  I took their advice to heart. I finished the season without having run or jogged once. I accomplished a lot in simply doing this.  I can walk farther with fewer pains.  I have more stamina and feel more prepared for a more strenuous workout.

Now that the season is over and the spring season is starting, I plan on doing intervals, walking and running on my Saturdays.  I probably won’t be very good at this for a while.  Even running a full minute will probably be near impossible for the first month, but if I stick to it, I imagine I’ll be able to run a full minute without slowing or stopping and then run two minutes, then three.  It’s the small steps that make out the large leaps in your life.  And I’m looking forward to the new regiment I’ll be pushing on my body and another two seasons with Boise Run/Walk.  Hopefully when I need to sign up for another season, my fourth one, I’ll have the money for the membership then as well.

Boise Run/Walk has been a great experience for me.  I have a lot more to learn from the group, and about myself. And I recommend everyone join who may be interested in walking, running or jogging.

April 4

Writing Screenplays: Initial Challenges

The semester hasn’t even officially started yet and I’m challenged.  Before school starts, Spalding has their MFA students send in samples of their work.  The samples are put into similar categories: screenplays with screenplays, Children’s books with Children’s books, Memoirs with Memoirs, etc.  The categories are divided into groups of students.  I think Fiction has the majority of the students so they need multiple groups, where as Children’s and Young Adult writing had so few in that category that everyone was put in the same group.   Everyone then receives a  copy of the samples the students in their group sent in.  Once they receive it, they read and critique the pieces.  The more notes you have on the individual piece the better off you’ll be when it comes to giving the face-to-face critique during residency.

So, what have I been doing?  Preparing my sample for residency.

I could have chosen to try Fiction this semester instead of screenwriting. Fiction is closer to the YA genre I write and I read a ton of it.  Their’d be some changes, some differences, but nothing compared to what I’m enduring trying to get this screenwriting script worked out.  I knew Screenwriting would be a challenge because it is so different from what I’m use to writing, and I wanted to challenge myself, not have an easy semester.  I’ve proven what I’ve always suspected: Screenwriting and Novels are very different animals.

Not only is the formatting different but so is the way you think of how you write. Screenwriting, so far, seems to allow for far more telling.  I’m not needing to describe the emotions of the characters, add thoughts or numerous other things. I tell a lot instead of show. For example, in my screenplay, I have:

Regan: (Incredulous)  You’re husband?

In a novel, I’d write it a different way.  Adding more details so you saw and heard Regan’s emotions instead of being told them.  In that way, screenwriting is easier for me.  Because the emotional aspect of the story has always been a tad harder for me to write than other things. However, I feel like the story is naked without some of the more common elements I have in even my most basic drafts.  It’s unsettling and goes against several instincts.

I think I did okay with my scripts. But I’ll find out for certain how I did when I get on campus and receive my critiques from my peers and mentors.  No matter how I actually did on the screenplays, I know this will be a learning experience that will hopefully help me with my novels.

January 6

Boise Run/Walk

As a writer I don’t get much exercise. Okay.  Much may be an overstatement, unless you count flexing a creative muscle.  However, I do know the importance of exercise.  The first time I lost about 40 pounds in four months. I stopped exercising though when I developed problems with my legs. I gained all the weight I lost and then some.  A few months later I tried again with a personal trainer.  I didn’t lose a pound but I regularly exercised for about 3 hours every-other-day.  Despite loving the high that exercise gave me, I stopped working out when I graduated college and no longer had a personal trainer to hold me accountable.

Needing accountability seems to be  a big thing for me.  Once I get started with exercising, I tend to do all the work.  I’ve been told that I often push myself too hard, too fast. But I have fun with it.  I enjoyed the high of the exercise, most importantly, I fell in love with running, jogging and walking.  But without that accountability, I stop going to the gym, which is a shame, because exercise had a positive impact on my writing, along with my body.  I was thinner, toned. I could write longhand for longer periods of time. I had more energy and felt more focused. Words came easier to me. I miss that feeling. Ever since I stopped exercising, I’ve sworn I’d get back into shape, get on a regular exercise schedule, lose weight.  But I’ve been unable to get back on the train. It’s been almost three years.

So I was intrigued when I found a group called  Boise Run/Walk.  A group dedicated to runners, and walkers?  Coaches to help?  Sounded like a combination of my favorite exercise and the accountability I needed. I did some research, asked some questions and signed up.  Shortly after signing up, I received a training schedule.  The formal meetings for the group is on Saturday.  The training plan includes how long one should walk/jog/run on specific days so you’re working out, without overworking your body.  If members want, they can meet up with other members on those days to workout, which sounds like is a popular thing, or they can train alone on those days.  The idea is to get out there but coach Steve did say he thought the most important thing was to have fun doing it.

Jan. 5 was my first day participating in Boise Run/Walk. To prepare I got up at 6:30am and made omelettes for breakfast, something I remember making a lot when I was losing a lot of weight.  By 8am I was in the gym with other members, ready to start.

The idea of the group is to help coach and motivate people to get out and exercise.  Some of the members are hard-core marathon runners, some members are wanting to try something smaller like a 5k or 10k, and others are members for the socialization, the exercise and the accountability. You are not required to do anything.  You can set your own pace, but it’s recommended that you start slow.

I enjoyed going out for the meeting on January 5.  I met some people, learned more about the program and got some exercise. Each morning the group starts off with some kind of “training” or “lesson” that’ll help with your exercise regimen. The topics may be on nutrition, breathing properly, core strength or any number of things.   We started off with an introduction group, with it being the first meeting. I’m looking forward to learning from the group.

Afterwards, everyone started on their walk/run/jog.  Depending on your goals, members had a choice of distances to choose from.  Those training for the 10k were encouraged to walk a mile.  Those training for the half-marathon were encourage to walk 3 miles.  Of course, you could go as far as you wanted.  So if three miles wasn’t enough, then continue going.  Each Saturday meeting, the distance will slowly increase to help train you for a marathon.

I’m telling you a mile and a half may not seem like much but I felt it later. Yes. I could have walked farther without it bothering my legs but my back would have hated me even more.  I learned a lot from coach Steve who spent most of his time on the walk, providing tips and answering questions about training, which was a great introduction for someone who has never really done outdoor running/jogging/walking.  I was usually on a treadmill.

The temperature was about 5 degrees. I’d received some new walking shoes for Christmas and I’m glad to say they worked beautifully on the walk outside.  I was afraid I’d blister because of the darn things.  Two layers worked to keep my upper body warm, but my legs were a little chilled and I’m told frost formed on my face. The cold soaked into my skin slowly, a layer at a time. So that even hours after the walk, burrowed under covers, I could still feel the cold in my legs.  I probably need to invest in some good walking pants for these colder temperatures and perhaps a ski mask.  I couldn’t feel my face for most of the walk.

Afterwards, we stretched to cool down and I asked a Physical Therapist about the back pain I could already feel developing after sitting down for the stretches.  Apparently having physical therapists at the Saturday walks is a regular thing and they’re identifiable by the clothes they wear.  They give free advice on Saturdays.  On occasion massage therapists will be available after the Run/Walk meetings. This was not one of them.  I’m told the Run/Walk program has other resources for members that they may be able to tap into should the need strike.

I’m looking forward to future meetings and plan to keep to the workout plan they’ve set up for us.  Believe me, I’ll be reporting on how everything works out for me.  What changes happen for me and if I keep up with the membership.  So far I plan to stay for the entire season membership.