Dogwood Advanced 2017

A Recap of Some Photography Adventures

How is it already mid-February? My 2017 started off with me getting what I thought was a really bad cold, but in hindsight it was probably the flu from hell that seemed to be everywhere in Washington. I recovered (mostly) in time for my trip to Yellowstone with Jared Lloyd (I went on the wild horses workshop with him last spring), and co-led by Doug Gardner. They’re both fabulous and if you’re looking for a wildlife workshop I can’t recommend them enough. They’re excellent photographers as many photog workshop leaders are, but they’re also excellent teachers—which some photog workshop leaders are not. For my fellow writers, it’s similar to how just because a person can write well doesn’t mean they’re automatically a good editor.

I haven’t managed to get through all of the photos I took (a few thousand…), but I have a few to share. Yellowstone in the winter is so fun and pretty! And cold, imagine that. I’d never been to Yellowstone before, or in negative degree temperatures, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Since my only frame of reference for “cold” was the 16-17 degrees Fahrenheit I’d experienced during undergrad out in eastern Washington, let’s just say that -20, -25F on our first morning in the interior was eye-opening. Actually, icicle-on-eyelash-inducing.Photo courtesy of Jared Lloyd Photography.

Frosty Morning

Also, don’t be the person who forgets her snow pants in the hotel on the first morning. Frolicking around in Polartec 200-weight pants when it’s -20F out is a poor life decision.

I’m compiling an album that you can find on flickr, and will eventually get one up on facebook. We saw plenty of wildlife despite the heavy snow in the interior. Bison are everywhere, which can actually make it challenging to get an interesting photo of them. The first morning where it was super cold was pretty lucky for us, because you need the temps to get down that low or lower in order to get images where the bison are covered in hoarfrost. Which was the kind of shot at the top of my list to try and get. Pretty happy with it.

Frosty Bison

Bison don’t quite have the “look of eagles” that horses possess, but they make a good go of it.

The Look of Eagles, Bison Version

We were also really lucky to see a long-tail weasel in its winter phase coloration. Apparently only the short tail weasel gets to be called an ermine when it turns white. Photographing this guy was an exercise in frustration because he was so fast, small, fast, white on white, did I mention ridiculously fast? For legs that are only a few inches long these things can fly across the snow. We were fortunate to get about 20+ minutes with him as he hunted for rodents sleeping under the snow.

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Others that I don’t all have up yet are foxes, river otters, coyotes, bald eagles and a bunch of other birds, bull elk, bull and cow moose, mule deer, bighorn rams…and I’m probably forgetting some others.

Week 6- Anything Blue

On the writing front, draft zero of the novel is nearly done. If all goes according to the outline (ha!), then there’s three chapters left. I was able to get into session 3 for Rainforest Writers in early March, so the plan is to have the draft done and start typing it up (2/3 of it have been handwritten because I’m weird like that) at Rainforest. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve never been to the Rainforest retreat/workshop before, or Lake Quinault, and I’m looking forward to both the writing and photographic opportunities.

Onward to 2017

Took a look at my “resolutions” blog post from January, and thought I’d do a bit of a recap/goals for next year. As far as my resolutions for 2016 went…well, the blogging once a month almost made it. I think I missed twice, but also posted more than once a few times too. So, let’s call that one fulfilled.

The Writing Goals. I did succeed in having at least two short stories on sub at all times. Yay. As far as the whole, have an entire draft of the novel written and polished and out for querying. HAHAHA. I’m a sweet summer child. In fairness, I ended up scrapping the novel I’d started earlier this year, and started fresh in May. I’m almost finished with the last chapter in the second act, and according to my outline, Act 3 chugs right along. Not that the outline has changed…a lot…during the process… I wanted to have at least the second act finished by the end of the year, but I’ve been hit with a nasty cold/fever and there’d probably just be pages of characters sitting around being pissy that I’d have to fix in post. I wrote a tiny bit of flash, but that’s a goal that will carry over into next year.

Read More. I’ve read a lot more this last year than in previous years, I think. What I might do is start keeping a list of what I finish in 2017 so I have hard numbers to look back on. I have a ton of YA and novellas stockpiled, so 2017 might be the year to tackle those. I was terrible and didn’t do any reviews on goodreads…bad me. It feels kinda weird reviewing books of people I know/might know in the future. Fellow writers, do you have this issue? I need to make an account that doesn’t use my name.

Weight Goals. So, that was a total fail. Oh well. I think I gained two or three pounds over the last year. I think I also need to accept that the way I exercised in my teens doesn’t apply anymore. I’m not too down about this “failure” though because I’m not upset with how I look, and I’ve accepted that post-accident my activity levels can’t be the same. Also, I should probably eat out less. Should. Might. Maybe.

2016 was a great year in exploring my new hobby: photography. Had a blast on two big photo trips, both of which I covered earlier in the blog (wild horses in NC, and the Palouse). 2017 should also be an exciting year when it comes to photography. I have two trips already booked: Yellowstone in mid-January, and Norway in June. I’ve got some photography goals for next year which include two separate weekly themed challenges. Even though I petered out about halfway through the Dogwood52 2016 challenge, I am much more inspired by the “advanced” 2017 challenge list. I’ve also joined a second challenge run through facebook, put on my photographer Bob Noble. It looks a little more relaxed and personal than the Dogwood one since the group will be capped at 150 people (sitting at I think 110 now). As a way to try and stay motivated and keep the blog active, I’ll probably start doing roundups of the photos taken with notes about the images on the blog.

The writing goals from last year pretty much all carry over into this year. I’d like to do a few more writing-related posts. I’ve said before I’d “review” some of the online classes I’ve taken (Gotham, LitReactor, Cat Rambo), and I’d like to get those written. I’d also like to do a post on my slush reading experience (I’m a slush reader for Uncanny Magazine).

Hard to think about weight goals right now when things like breathing and swallowing hurts (curse you, cold) but I’m going to vary up the workout routine more, try and get some more HIIT workouts in, etc. Finding workout videos and routines I can do post-accident has been a process, but I’ve started doing more barre workouts and like them a lot.

Ok, this ended up being longer than I expected. Off to drown myself in tea. I leave you with my first photo for the Dogwood2017 challenge: tell a story using the Rule of Thirds compositional rule. Cogwheel loves watching the fish get fed. Thankfully, we’ve never had a cat that tried to go fishing (though both Beth and Cogwheel have fallen in).

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SIWC 2016 Recap

 

So, I gushed a bit after my first time attending the Surrey International Writers’ Conference last year, which I blogged about here.

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I still love this conference. As a second-time attendee, there was still a huge variety of workshops to choose from. Not each one was a winner, but I enjoyed the majority and would like to go back again. SIWC does a good job of having several recurring workshops as well as adding in new variety each year. This is a fun, inviting, professional conference that is certainly beginner-friendly. No matter what your skill level is, everyone there is welcoming and comes with a similar level of commitment to the craft.

Great keynotes all weekend long, kicked off by Canadian author Angie Abdou on Friday morning and followed by authors: Daniel Jose Older on Friday night, Jael Richardson on Saturday morning, Larry Brooks on Saturday night, Cat Rambo on Sunday morning, and closed out by literary agent Donald Maas at the Sunday luncheon. Food was fine, just like last year. I can be a bit of a picky eater but always found enough to eat in the buffet, plus the Sheraton’s restaurant is pretty good too (though pricey…it’s hotel food). I bought a full conference package which included lunch/dinner in the ballroom, but there was also a small snack bar set up near the room where the Blue Pencils and Pitches were held that sold coffee, bagels, pastries, etc.

SIWC has four sessions a day, each an hour and fifteen minutes long—great for having enough time for the presenters to go a bit deeper than 101 level and still have time for questions. Each session has 8-9 different workshops going on at once, so there’s plenty to choose from—both a good and a bad thing! If one workshop isn’t panning out, the conference encourages you to try one of the other ones. The Blue Pencils and Pitches run throughout the day all weekend so people are always quietly coming and going (thank you, door monitors) and it’s not awkward if you get up to leave.

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View from the hotel. I don’t think I left the building all weekend.

I had an informative pitch session with Moe Ferrara this year. I went in more for practice/experience than anything else since my novel isn’t complete, and I almost chickened out and canceled the pitch, but I’m glad I went through with it. Moe was great and gave me some tips on how to tighten up my phrasing, and invited me to send a query when the novel is finished.

I got in for a second Blue Pencil this year in addition to the one included with registration. You can try to get extra Pitches or Blue Pencils if there are openings with the presenters (I think there usually are), and I got in with Daniel Jose Older on the last day. My first Blue Pencil was with Cat Rambo, and both were great. You can bring a maximum of three pages to the critique session, which is only fifteen minutes long. I brought the beginning of a new short story and got some good feedback on how to mete out the backstory better, as well as some markets to approach when the story is ready. The fifteen minutes goes fast, but I’ve gotten valuable feedback within it—especially helpful in the beginning of a short story.

It’s a big conference, but I’ve made some amazing writing friends both years that I’ve gone. A real “finding my people” kind of event. It’s not inexpensive being a three-day conference, plus the convenience of staying in the hotel, though it being in Canadian currency does help. But, if you can afford to go, SIWC is a wonderful experience. Next year is the 25th anniversary! I wonder what they’ll have in store for us…

Able to Disabled: My Thoughts on Bones Season 11

It should be apparent from the title that there are going to be some spoilers. Here’s my SPOILER ALERT warning. Also apparent from the title—I use the term “disabled.” That’s what works for me. You do you.

The eleventh season of Bones recently came to Netflix, and I was surprised by the show’s decision to severely injure one of the main characters—and even more so by how it was handled. To quote the Netflix description: “A forensic anthropologist teams up with an FBI agent to investigate crimes that have left scant evidence behind: namely the bones of the deceased.” I’ve also heard it called forensics porn because the show doesn’t shy away from showing gross-out, grisly bits. Not particularly violent, but it does like to show dead bodies, bugs, all that goodness.

I love this show. It has a decently diverse ensemble cast (I freaking love Camille Saroyan), has great humor given the subject matter, and generally has good singular/episodic plots interwoven with a season-long problem. My thoughts on the disabled character and that arc only pertain to what happens during season 11.

To give the spoiler-free crowd a chance to depart, I’ll go into a little bit of a background bio to shed some light on why I’m blogging about this. Near the end of 2012, my family was involved in a car accident that resulted in the death of my parents and left myself, my husband, and my older sister with a varying degree of disabling injuries. My younger brother escaped with minor physical injuries. I’m being deliberately short here, but I presume readers can imagine the emotional trauma involved.

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It’s usually easiest to sum up that I broke most of my lower half from the ribs down: multiple ribs, pelvis (I think in two spots), both femurs, right knee, right ankle, left wrist, surface abrasions, plus internal injuries. I was fortunate in that of the three of us, my injuries had the largest margin for recovery. Today I can walk without an aid, though I still keep my cane in my car. To the casual observer I probably don’t “look disabled,” because I can walk unassisted and usually without a limp. My husband and I had eerily similar breaks, though he had several in addition to mine. He lives with chronic nerve pain that will most likely be a continuous battle to manage, and he walks with a forearm crutch. My sister is a quadriplegic, and blogs about her experiences at Jessie Thinks.

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Almost hallway through season 11 of Bones, the character Dr. Jack Hodgins is injured at a crime scene and ends up a paraplegic. When we find out at the end of episode 10 that he’s paralyzed, I inwardly cringed. I adore this show and was not optimistic about how it would handle disability in a primary character. Were they going to turn him into this morose recluse who can’t possibly have a meaningful life? Have him magically cured after one episode?

Neither. For the next 5 episodes, we see Hodgins’ arc of dealing with becoming disabled. Based on my experience, on so many levels the show nailed it. Not perfectly; I have some qualms with where the season ends that I’ll address in a bit. The grieving process is sped up a bit more than I think is realistic, but honestly I was amazed at how much time the character and his injury received.

I related so hard to some of the things Hodgins goes through/does/feels. The first episode after we find out he’s been paralyzed, he’s actually really upbeat. But, we find out it’s because he thought his nerves were re-growing, and at the end of that episode he finds out that he was experiencing phantom pain and that in fact his MRI shows nerve decay. The next 3 episodes show him going through an intense grieving process, and the rest of the season follows his journey to come to terms with where he’s at.

What Hodgins goes through—that was my family’s life. I’ve never related to a show so much; where I watched and could say “that was me,” or “that was us.” The scenes where Hodgins is looking around his workplace and noting all the ways it isn’t ADA-friendly. How he enviously stares at people as they trot up and down the stairs. Easily. Carelessly.

I’ve been there. I remember sitting in the ambulance, then the cabulance, then finally a regular car while at the James Street exit, watching people rushing up or down Capitol Hill to catch a bus. Glaring at strangers as they hurried along, blindly trusting their knees to hold them. I remember staring at people as they ran down the road, or jumped over a puddle, thinking to myself, “yea, don’t take that for granted, motherf*cker. You don’t know what you have.” I remember being so jealous and angry and knowing that it wasn’t logical but I DON’T CARE BECAUSE I’M BROKEN. I rode horses and played recreational soccer for 10+ years. I ran on my high school cross country team. I played IM flag football in undergrad, and screw modesty: I was pretty damned good at it. So that sense of loss, and the anger, and the desperation/desire to find a way to be unbroken again—I get that.

I went from able to disabled to now somewhere in between. I can’t run anymore. I can’t jump. Kneeling and crouching are slow, painful, and usually inconvenient. I can climb stairs but can’t remember what it felt like to do it with ease even though I know I used to be able to take them three at a time. It wasn’t even that long ago, but I’ve no memory of what effortlessness feels like. But, I can walk. I’m no longer stuck in a bed, ticking off the days, weeks, months until my doctor removes the “non-weight bearing” restriction from my whiteboard. As freeing as the wheelchair was, I’ve graduated from it, the walker, the crutches, and even the cane. For now, anyway. It took a long time, but I don’t stare, green with envy, when runners go by.

The arc Hodgins goes through rang true to me. The desperate hope that he was getting better; the anger and jealousy and grief over his loss—and how that affects everyone around him; how he tries to get into experimental programs, something, anything that will bring his legs back. And, eventually to how he grows to accept that being disabled is who he now is, but also how he’s more than just a guy in a wheelchair. He has to find what the “new normal” is for him, and thankfully the show does that well too. We get to see a once able-bodied man now in a wheelchair, and his life ultimately doesn’t change. He’s able to continue at his job, and though there are certain limitations due to being in the chair, for the most part he’s able to do everything he did before—AND the show doesn’t make a huge deal of it. Yes, he gets a motorized lift so he can join the team on the examination platform, but the last quarter of the season he just zips around and goes about his business. We see how he gets to keep his normal life—wheelchair and all. I love this.

Now, there’s a bit at the end that I don’t like, because after all that time showing the realistic struggle (to me) of an able-bodied person becoming disabled and still managing to figure out their life, the show decides to hint that Hodgins might “get better.” He starts to get nerve flares and muscle spasms in his legs in the second-to-last episode. I have problems with this. It looks dangerously like the show’s going to fall into the whole “disability is bad” deal by making Hodgins able-bodied again, because omg we can’t have someone disabled on the show. It also doesn’t really make sense since we were told that his nerve ends had already begun decaying, and he didn’t end up putting himself into any experimental programs—they claim it’s just the result of all that PT. That’s also a bit of a slap in the face to spinal cord injured people who know that not all the PT in the world can undo their damage. Whatever. It’s unclear by the finale if he’ll fully regain his legs or not. I’m hoping not. I know, it’s a TV show. The Hodgins character is also very wealthy and has access to therapy and aids that most people don’t. Overall, I think the process of able to disabled and coming to terms with life are handled well.

I have serious misgivings about the finale unrelated to Hodgins, but that has nothing to do with disability.

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Anniversary Trip to the Summit House Restaurant

 

Husbeast and I celebrated our five-year anniversary last weekend with a trip to the Summit House Restaurant near Mt. Rainier. It’s a bit of a trek out there, but the drive is pretty and it was a gorgeous day. We got there a little early and checked out the base area of the resort before taking the gondola up. There’s a gift shop (with lots of high SPF products—yes! Snagged some lip balm with SPF +30) and a café, though the café was closed for a wedding. Looks like there are some nice hiking opportunities in the area too, though we didn’t investigate. Restroom facilities are located at the base, and I don’t know if there are any up at the Summit House. I commented to Husbeast that there are a lot of “don’t feed the wildlife” signs, but I didn’t see any animals—not even birds. More on that later.

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The gondola ride is fun, and Husbeast managed it fine despite not being fond of heights. You’re fully enclosed and it’s actually surprisingly quiet once you get away from the landing/receiving points. I can also report that it goes at a pace conducive to hatching Pokemon Go eggs. It’s not entirely ADA friendly, but Husbeast didn’t have a problem with his forearm crutch. The gondola can come to a complete stop if need be, so someone capable of standing transfers with a mechanical/folding wheelchair may be able to make it work. The gondolas themselves are pretty spacious, and the gondola operators were all respectful and accommodating.

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Food was pretty good, and this is the first place where Canadian Husbeast gave the poutine a passing grade. He only needs to go to 6,872 feet to get it again. Pictures of the mountain didn’t turn out great because it was super hazy that day and I didn’t have a polarizer.

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Oh, and remember the “don’t feed the wildlife” signs? The reason resides up at the Summit House,  and people completely disregard the signs: saw a woman dump a pile of seeds in front of her so she could video her kid trying to pet the chipmunk.

Not an inexpensive day trip once you factor in the drive and gondola fee on top of the food, but it’s a fun excursion for people looking to get out of the city.

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Race Day 236

Race Day

Ok, that’s a misleading title because it’s not actually about racing. But it kind of is, so work with me here. I missed blogging last month and will try to make up for it with dual posts this month. Going with more photography adventures, so expect picture heavy posts.

I have an uber Awesome Aunt who has always been big on gifting “experiences” rather than things as presents. For Christmas last year, she gifted a “race car experience” to my brother, who we’ll call Little Brother: Race Day 274and he finally scheduled the date and went out to the track yesterday. The website encourages photography, so off I went to watch. He got to bring a friend, let’s call him Friend K:

Race Day 208(not to be confused with the Intrepid K mentioned in previous posts). The company is Rusty Wallace Racing, and uses the short track at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, WA (it’s almost fair time! Yay). Unfortunately, there’s a tall chain link fence blocking off the track from the grandstands, and visitors aren’t allowed in the pit area (duh).

Race Day 036But, if you climb to nearly the top of the grandstand then you can get an unobstructed view of the cars for about half the track. No cool pit shots or of the cars coming straight on, but this was a great opportunity for me to practice panning. Also a good exercise in controlling shutter speed. The sweet spot in getting detail on the cars but with motion blur on the wheels was tight, and got worse as my arms got tired from holding the camera up. All shot with a Canon 7D Mk 2 with a 100-400mm lens at 400mm. Used a polarizer for the panning shots.

The company had I think 7 cars, and anywhere from 2-4 on the track at a time. The doors don’t open like conventional cars, so the drivers get to climb in through the window.

It’s not a large track so the cars can’t get remotely close to NASCAR speed, but they seemed to have fun gunning down the straight.

Car racing isn’t really my thing, but this was a unique photo opportunity. Awesome Aunt does it again with the cool experiences.

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I’m Not a Landscape Photographer. Also, Dog Photos

Squeaking in here on the last day of June. Oh, and happy belated birthday to my blog. Somehow I’ve managed to blog somewhat consistently for over a year! Finally got some of the Palouse photos edited. Prints available at my SmugMug site: https://jaimeomayer.smugmug.com/. Fair warning: this will be a more picture-heavy post.

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Had a great time over in (at?) the Palouse in eastern Washington with some of the Muench Workshops guys. Our fearless leaders were Mike Brandt and Randy Hanna. Going east of the mountains during a hot spell was a bit rough, but for the most part we were shooting at times where the heat was tolerable (by my “I hate the heat and live in Seattle for a reason” standards). I was also lucky to spend the workshop with a great group of fellow photographers that were friendly and easy to get along with. This was a different experience than the last workshop I was on photographing the wild horses, and eye-opening. I’m new to photography as a hobby—I decided to “get serious” about it back in December and signed up for an online course. Being a noob, I’m still trying out photographing all sorts of subjects instead of carving out a niche. But, I’m beginning to think that 1) I’m more of a nature and wildlife kind of person, and 2) I can scratch landscapes off the list. I like looking at landscape photos, and it’s nice to be out on location and all, but sitting around for two hours waiting for the horses to do something interesting never felt boring. Spending the same amount of time waiting for the right cloud to be behind a barn…yea, it’s not the same. There’s just something about getting up at 4am and then being on location for the next two or three hours, and I’m like…so, barn’s still there. Not moving.

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Or, yep, those rolling hills, not going anywhere.

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The workshop leaders thought it was amusing that I’d tend to get bored and go photograph something like bees…

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…or sit on the ground during all the waiting.

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Yes, getting low makes for a nice, different perspective. Also, spoiler alert, but contrary to popular opinion, my “get low” approach wasn’t so much of a “it must be easy for the short, young(ish) person” as it is me not being able to kneel or crouch after the car accident a few years ago. Sitting is easier. Especially since I FORGOT my freaking Walkstool at home. That thing would’ve been so nice to have on hand.

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I think my favorite part was the night shoot where we practiced astrophotography. That was the part I was most looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint. Of course, shooting on a crop sensor (I use a Canon 7D Mark II) with a 24mm lens while standing next to a guy with a full frame camera and a rented Zeiss 15mm lens that is nothing but gorgeous—it has a way of making one feel inadequate. Actually, I think everyone in the workshop, including the leaders, were feeling the Zeiss envy. But, I’m still happy with my photos, and seeing how the light-painting technique is done was cool.

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In non-Palouse related news, I can finally post a few shots I took of this cutie pie, Gambit, who is co-owned by my sister and her roommate. Did the photoshoot to get some shots for said roommate’s birthday, which has now passed, so no risk of spoilers.

I never wanted to get into portrait photography since I vaguely hate people, but pet portrait photography I can dig. Consider this my hanging out a shingle. Rates to be determined.

Wish my cats would be more willing models.

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Photo Adventures with Wild Horses

Ok, I know some might quibble with me calling them “wild” rather than “feral,” but whatever. They’re one of the oldest herds in America and have been surviving hurricanes and island living for centuries and I’m calling them wild. Nnnyaaaah.

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I’m back from a trip to Beaufort, NC where I spent a week photographing the wild horses that live at Rachel Carson Reserve. The workshop was led by Jared Lloyd, and was a triumvirate of fun, informative, and exhausting, but in a good way. I heard some interest about prints, and I have a bare-bones website (https://jaimeomayer.smugmug.com) up if people would like to peruse some of the “picks” I’ve accumulated.

There were two other lovely ladies on the workshop with me, and we were fortunate to be based out of a house on Front Street, which runs right alongside a narrow creek that separates “Carrot Island” from the residential area. Several times you could look across the street and see horses out grazing. It also meant that we had a nice and short walk from the house to the boat. Jared is a fun guy and is both an excellent teacher and photographer, and all four of us got along well. Which was great, because those 5am jaunts out to watch the horses sleep all morning could’ve been really awkward otherwise!

There are around 40+ horses at Rachel Carson, with what seemed like half of them being what I came to think of as the “waterhole herd.” There are several spots on the island where the horses have dug down for drinkable water (the photos of horses in water is actually saltwater from when the tide comes in and floods a big section of the island), but the waterhole herd tended to hang out around an area that has fresh water on a (relatively) consistent basis. Jared had referred to the waterhole herd as a bit atypical for wild horses, and after being around them (and the others on the island), you can see it. There were three separate harems in the waterhole herd, but they’re all more or less ok with living in close proximity to one another and hang around as one big herd. There were still squabbles…

…especially if one of the stallions decided to test his luck and try to get too close to one of the other guys’ mares, but overall they live together with a weird truce in place.

They dig down pretty deep!

Contrast that against the more typical, “fringe” herds, who tended to have much smaller harems (2-4 others compared to anywhere from 5-8 of the waterhole stallions), and kept their distance from each other as much as possible. The fringe groups were much more watchful and on alert if they saw other horses, and tended to keep to themselves. However, they all need to drink water daily, and that sometimes meant coming into close contact.

One of the fringe stallions is Wavelength, who lost his mares to a stallion called Cyclops (he only has one eye) last year. Wavelength is interesting because his staked out territory is along the coast all the way across the island from where the waterhole herd tends to hang out, and he swims out to grazing areas rather than walk the long way around.  For him, we did all of our photographing from the boat, which made for some cool shots with high key water/sky backgrounds.

We got excited because near the end of our trip, Wavelength appeared to have gotten one of his girls back from Cyclops. Yay! But, wild horses, remember? We also had the sad privilege to see him lose her the following day. They headed inland for water, and by the time we zipped around in the boat and got out to try and photograph them at their waterhole (a different one from the waterhole herd), Cyclops had reclaimed her and Wavelength was far off, swimming back to his marshy area. Hard to say what happened for certain, but we were guessing that the mare got too far in front of Wavelength and at some point he decided it wasn’t worth it to fight Cyclops again and headed back. Cue the David Attenborough narration about the instinct to breed being a constant struggle, and one that this little horse has lost.

HoofprintsWhat you can’t really tell from the photo without something better for reference, is that these horses (ponies really, 11-maybe 15h (I didn’t see anyone on Carrot Island that tall)) have huge hooves for their size. They’re short, stout, and built to last for island living.

We had a bit of a slow week compared to Jared’s previous workshops, as the horses tended to hang out around the waterhole for most of the morning. They got a little friskier in the afternoon, but not as much action as one might have hoped for. Then again, that’s how we knew we were photographing wildlife. Getting up before sunrise and spending the next few hours out sitting with the horses was a nice change for me from sitting behind a computer for most of the day. Crouching in the water when the tide was up, fighting off the evil little snails that have a sneaky way of getting into your shoes…yea, not so much. But being in the water and photographing the horses moving through it is what makes these particular herds so unique.

I have another photo workshop at the Palouse with the folks behind Muench Workshops in early June, so hopefully I’ll have some nice landscape photos to show y’all in a few weeks. I thought I’d have more time to write during the off-hours on the photo workshop, and I guess I did have the time but lacked the energy. Very little progress was made on the novel. I even took a nap! I hate naps. However, I got a lot of reading done. Perhaps Palouse will be different. Meanwhile, I’m trying to churn out some words while I’m home.

 

Cascade Writers 1-Day Recap

A bit late in writing my post on the Cascade Writers one-day workshop, The Business and Craft of Writing, that happened last weekend. I had a great time meeting up with some old friends and making new ones.

I like the one-day format because it’s a lot of information, but isn’t as draining as a 3 or 4-day workshop. Being within driving distance helps. We were fortunate to be graced with the presence of authors Spencer Ellsworth and Mark Henry, as well as agent Sara Megibow. They each offered something different to the workshop, which lent it a nice feeling of depth.

Admittedly, I primarily went for the opportunity to practice my pitch with Sara. It went pretty well, and she gave me some tips on how to focus my pitch better. This was interesting for me as she wanted pitches with a tighter focus than other “formulas” I’ve seen online that were more summarizing/broad. I still need to play around with it, and come up with a few versions/lengths for different circumstances.

The programming was great because I thought that Sara covered a lot of the business/publishing side (duh), which is in its own way more straight forward and no nonsense. As she put it, there are two circles in writing: the art of writing circle, and the business of publishing circle, and they cover distinct aspects of the process. I need to start reading more of the current releases in my genre. *looks mournfully at stack of new YA books*

Mark sort of bridged the gap between Sara and Spencer. His programming (to me) seemed more career/life-oriented, complete with war stories from his writing career thus far. He went over how to manage social media, ways to reach and keep your audience engaged, and in a sense how to not burn out when you reach that inevitable point. If only it were sunshine and roses after getting that initial acceptance, whether that’s an agent or a book deal or whatever.

Spencer covered more of the craft component, with sessions on pacing and dialogue, complete with handouts, a whiteboard presentation, and several film clips. I missed part of the dialogue session because my pitch appointment fell during it, but the pacing segment also included dialogue and how the two work together to progress the story. I liked this approach and the use of film clips because they were great visual examples expressing how good dialogue does what we want it to: reveal character, move the story forward, be entertaining, etc. That programming might be enough to tip me over the edge into watching The Wire. Maybe. Drug dramas aren’t really my thing. I watch Food Network for a reason.

An interesting part of this workshop was that we pretty much stayed together as a group the entire day. Meals were taken as a large group (20ish people) inside the hotel restaurant, which was nice…for the most part. I liked that we stayed together because it made it easier to chat with new friends and the speakers in a relaxed environment without people having to break off into tiny groups (again, for the most part. The hotel restaurant wasn’t really set up to accommodate all of us). The not-so-great part was that the La Quinta restaurant food, while ok, was served at a snail’s pace. It took so long for our lunch orders to come (and we were basically the only people eating at the hotel) that it threw the programming schedule off. Dinner was only marginally better, despite our group number going down as some people had left early.

Still, a fun and informative day. My novel is plugging along, though I don’t know if I’ll have a polished enough draft to submit to Sara, who graciously offered to take the first 50 pages if the manuscript is complete by June 1st.

Norwescon ribbons

Norwescon 39 Recap

Norwescon ribbons

My lowly assortment of con ribbons.

Norwescon 39 has come and gone, so here is my recap of a fun weekend. This was my first Norwescon, but hopefully not my last. There were more positives than negatives, though the negatives were aggravating. Thankfully (I guess?), most of the negatives happened right at the beginning and the con experience greatly improved once I got over those hurdles.

The main negatives: 1) Parking is atrocious. The lot at the DoubleTree isn’t small, but for a con with a few thousand people in attendance it doesn’t cut it. Being in Seattle that’s not surprising, but the hotel didn’t do anything to help the situation. The ticket booths to enter the lot were unmanned, so the poor souls that didn’t arrive early on opening day (I didn’t get there until 3pm) got to drive around for however long you could stand it until giving up or being fortunate enough to find someone leaving their spot. I get it, parking frustration isn’t a new thing, but it would’ve been nice if Doubletree had posted a staff member at the ticket booth either directing people away or putting signs up indicating the lot was full (they did start to put up signs later on during the weekend). Because the hotel is right next to the airport there was airport parking/garages available, which kinda sucks, since the con rate for parking at the hotel was $8, and parking at the airport garage was running somewhere in the $20+ range.

2) Registration at the hotel (not Norwescon reg) was super slow when I got in. This is really more on the hotel than Norwescon, since you’d think if the hotel knew thousands more people than usual would be in that weekend then it might be a good idea to have an extra person or two at the registration desk.

Again, not the end of the world or all that unexpected, but coming on the heels of the parking frustration, seeing the row of empty stations at the registration desk and the lone person trying to handle it all…

My #3 actually got fixed by the second day, but originally programming was scheduled up to the hour without a break. As in, panel A goes from 10-11, panel B from 11-12, etc. Without a break period, you’d have panels cutting into the subsequent panel’s time. At the end of each panel there’d be an awkward shuffle to get people out of the room and then to get people waiting in the narrow hall (that’s my #4 gripe) in, settled, get the speakers situated, etc. It really sucked for the authors’ who had readings where the panel before them ran over and ate into their reading time (usually 30min). This did get fixed though, and panels started ending at 10min to the hour.

4) Norwescon is so-so, in my opinion, on being accessibility-friendly. The big plus is that the elevators were decently sized, there were 4 of them, and they ran quickly. I never encountered long waits or broken elevators. The Doubletree in Spokane for Worldcon was a different story. However, the halls for the conference rooms where the panels were held weren’t very wide. I guess Norwescon can get away with it since attendance is only around the 2-3k mark, but there were times where the flow of traffic had to completely stop so that someone in a scooter or wheelchair could move forward because the halls weren’t wide enough to accommodate a lane of traffic moving in both directions.

There also wasn’t a lot of seating available if one needed to sit while waiting for their panel, and what seating there was could end up being a long way from the room where the panel you wanted to attend was located. I know there were volunteers running around, but I’ve been to cons in the past where each room has a door attendant who usually handles getting someone with accessibility needs into the room without fuss or fanfare. I didn’t really see that at Norwescon, but that’s not to say they weren’t around. I’m also not sure if people were issued accessibility badges or stickers or whatnot to access rooms ahead of time.

I went solo to Norwescon and am fortunate to be in a position where most of the accessibility issues don’t impact me anymore, but having been in the situation where they once did I tend to be sensitive/aware of them or the need. Norwescon isn’t the worst with regard to accessibility, but it isn’t the best either. Some of that isn’t its fault in a direct way; they can’t control the physical width of the hallways. But these are things to consider for non-able bodied people.

Now that I’ve ranted about all the negatives (oops. I’ll cut some of it down in post), Norwescon really is a fun con. I think of it as Worldcon Lite. Lots of programming dedicated to the many aspects of SFF fandom, writing, cosplay, etc. An eclectic mix in the Dealer’s Hall, and a nice-sized art show. It was great to be able to meet up with friends that I rarely see otherwise, and to meet some in person that I’d previously only conversed with via social media.

Oh, and the DoubleTree’s food is actually pretty good. Not inexpensive (not surprising), but tasty, and they re-worked some of the items on the menu to cater to attendees with dietary restrictions. Example: the roasted cauliflower soup apparently is normally a vegetarian option, but they made a vegan version for Norwescon. And it was good. Maybe the server who told us that was making it up, but considering that she went back to talk to the chef, I doubt it. Or bravo for going through the work to make up an elaborate story. Never did find out why the bread pudding wasn’t considered vegetarian though.

I mainly attended Norwescon for the Fairwood Writers’ Workshop, which was lovely. My critique session was Saturday night with Catherine Montrose, Elizabeth Guizzetti, Tim McDaniel, and Pat MacEwen. I submitted a short story for the workshop, and was selected for an individual critique. The critiques were held at the top of the DoubleTree tower in the Mountain conference rooms, which do have a few stairs down to the table, though they were quick to note this during the workshop registration process. I imagine accommodations are made if you can’t navigate stairs. Our only gripe about the room was that we couldn’t get the lights to go above what we were calling “mood lighting.” The other room didn’t seem to have that problem, but we managed just fine. It was light enough at 7pm to get by, and dim lighting is a better trade than getting roasted by the sun with all those windows.

The workshop was great from registration to the actual critique. The guidelines were clear, and the workshop was great with communication. They make accommodations so that you don’t get put in the same group for a round robin session with someone you’re already critiquing with outside the workshop if that applies.

My critique went well, and I’m all squeeing inside because overall my story was well-received and doesn’t need a complete rewrite. They gave suggestions for ways to tighten it up and other revisions, and it was pretty nice—and telling—that all four agreed on what the structural flaws were. Onward to revisions I go, and hopefully can get it out to markets in April.

The novel’s progress is steady if also a bit slow. I’m past the first act of the rough draft and wading into the soggy middle. I think I said last blog post that I was hoping to have a post about the novel/my writing quirks…well, maybe next month! It’s only a few days away after all.

I was able to get a crash course on pitching as Jennifer Brozek offered to teach a 2hr class for the workshop participants on Thursday night. My takeaway is that the cobbled together logline I had for the novel was actually decent, but my title needs work. Brozek is a big proponent of titles not being generic, and fulfilling a promise to the reader in that it tells a little something about what the book is about. So I need to work on that. I’ll be attending the one-day workshop hosted by Cascade Writers next month covering the business of writing and will be doing some more pitching there, so this was a nice starter.