Sunday, June 27, 2010

Writing Conferences and birthdays and bad dancing


While you've been waiting my next blog post with baited breath (ew. like anchovie breath? stale gum? like there's some sort of breath that is supposed to be bait?) for my next blog post, I've been Living My Life.


Because my activities have been so exhausting that I sometimes couldn't tell if I were still living my life or whether it was living me.

So, let's see.


I can't really post a detailed report because they asked us not to. No one made eye contact with me when they made this request. They said that they don't think it's fair for people to pay lots of money to get material that we then turn around and post, in detail, for free on our blogs. GUILTY! You know I'm the culprit they were thinking of because if you google WIFYR, my reports come up as some of the most off-visited sites.

I have to say, they've got a point. So, with apologies to all the wonderful speakers that I've shamelessly reported on in the past, I am gracefully respecting the wishes of the WIFYR Powers That Be and not reporting this year.


So instead, I'll just tell you about my emotional ride. Because it was rather emotional. I was on staff this year, and so did not choose my class but was assigned to Kristyn Crow's picture book workshop. I am not disappointed in this assignment--I had told them to put me anywhere, because I'm not currently working on anything in particular. I've been to WIFYR before and taken picture book before, so much of what I heard in Kristyn's class I had heard before--but that doesn't mean I didn't learn. Kristyn has some really great ideas about how to write picture books as opposed to magazine stories which, I discovered, are what I've been writing before now. She helped me over that rut, and for that I am grateful. She also has some amazing and valuable handouts, and a lot of wisdom about analyzing the books that have already been published.

She's also an extremely kind, pleasant person who cares deeply for her students and wants to help in any way she can. I'm so glad I got to meet her and spend time with her.

Besides helping out in her class, I had lots of other work to do in preparation for the conference. In particular, I did a lot of publicity work and helped organize the restaurant lunch for all the students. And, I got to sing back-up to Carol and Cheri and agent Mary Kole and author Alane Ferguson. You can see what a good job I did in this video. I appear in the background about the 3:00 mark (look for Brandon Mull at the book signing--I'm right behind him helping Kristyn) (and how silly is that, to think that you would watch a video with BRANDON MULL in it in order to see the true star, ME, in the background!) and then there is a scene with my picture book class and I am kneeling in front, and then there is the fabulous DANCE SCENE at which I am a backup singer (look closely).

II. My birthday.

Well, I turned 40. It was a sad day. But not really because of the age, but because it was the culmination of the illustration of my loser-ness. As you know, this year has been a little hard, with the unexpected failure to get into the BYU MFA program. Like a little mid-life crisis: What in the world am I supposed to do with myself now? So my birthday somehow became symbolic of that, because Nothing Happened. I had told my family not to bother celebrating on the day itself because I was at WIFYR all day and had a dinner meeting scheduled. It was a rather trying day in which I got a very specific rejection from an editor (I had sent this story in an earlier version as a lyrical, almost poem-like meditation to another editor, who liked it but told me to put in a plot, story arc, etc.) who told me that this story sounded like it should be a lyrical, almost poem-like meditation and that I should take out the plot.

So, feeling frustrated and exhausted ("I gave up a birthday celebration for this conference which is to help me in a career that is just a series of dead ends!") I went home, where there was no celebration or recognition of my birthday (as I had requested) and, skipping my meeting, WENT TO BED, with that sick, lonely, empty, nobody-likes-me-I'm-going-to-go-eat-worms feeling. Stupid, immature whiner who wanted a birthday surprise, I guess. But, really, it was 40! 40! Blah.

Of course, my hubby, who is so thoughtful that he always gives me a gift on my CHILDREN'S birthdays, for crying out loud, has plans to celebrate some other time. I am very glad that he takes me at my word. I WANT to be taken at my word. I just hadn't known, beforehand, how sad it would be to have nothing on my very depressing birthday.

III. Segullah retreat.
Again, I was on staff for this one, so it was some work. Not nearly the work that WIFYR was (although some of the others worked their fannies off), but my preparations were stressful. This time I had to teach a workshop on poetry and conduct some personal critiques--both of which were very nerve-wracking for me. I hold the responsibility of helping someone along the road to becomong a poet to be very sacred. I tremble at the power I have to destroy someone's hopes. I am so indebted to teachers who helped me along my path, editors who published me when I was lousy (still am, I guess, at least according to BYU), etc. I wanted to be helpful and encouraging.

I think things went OK. There was a little misunderstanding during my workshop that caused me to lose about 20 minutes of teaching time, and that had me a little flustered, but otherwise I felt pretty good about it (student surveys: "Seemed a little rushed"). The critiques went pretty well, too, I guess--although I suppose I'd never know the truth about how those women felt after meeting with me. I found that I wanted to spend more minutes with them than the time alotted; it was very enjoyable.

I LOVED Stefani Raff's presentation, which was our keynote workshop in the morning. Those skills--both the active listening and the imaging, are things I need to hear over and over again. They benefit my family life and my artistic life immeasurably, when I remember to incorporate them. I felt the Spirit speak to me during that workshop, giving me ideas for parenting and for my work.

I have to say that these chicks really know how to put on a shin-dig. I couldn't help comparing it to AML meetings as the day went on. Of course, it helped that we had a fabulous facility donated to us (the Rhodes office) and that we were able to charge significantly more money for participation than we could ever do for AML. But the FOOD was so fantastic! Breakfast of Rhodes sweetrolls and fruit Lunch was catered by Mini's Cupcakes (hope I got that right) and dinner by Cafe Rio and there was even an AFTERNOON SNACK! The offices were beautiful but quite hot (no one knew how to turn on the air conditioning)--hot enought to set off the fire alarm (that was our "get the blood moving" break) and perfect for the day.

The staff retreat the day before was also sweet. I'm pretty lucky to still get to hang with these amazing Segullah women, seeing as I don't do any of the day-to-day work any more. They're all so beautiful and smart and interesting. I don't take the blessing of my involvement with them for granted.

So that's my life. July looks to be just about as busy, so I may be checking back in with you, my readers (both of you), in August.


Anonymous said...

I really was eager to hear your report. (I guess that makes me one of your two readers?) Right now I can't usually get away for conferences and workshops, but in a few years I'd love to be volunteering for Segullah or WIFYR.

I think it was on my mission that I learned just how true the fable is about the man who's taking his donkey and his son to the market. It's the fable where people keep criticizing the configuration of who's riding or not riding on the donkey, and the man takes each person's different advice until in the end he's carrying his son AND the donkey on his own back. On my mission there was always someone who thought I was too lazy and someone else who thought I was too driven, or someone who thought I was too worldly and someone else who thought I was too pious.

Even having had that experience, I'm still always shocked by new examples of the truth of the fable, and your lyrical/plotted story is a stunner. I'd be frustrated, too. I hope you get a really great post-40 celebration.

Darlene Young said...

Thanks, Zina.

Anonymous said...

baited breath (ew. like anchovie breath? stale gum? like there's some sort of breath that is supposed to be bait?)

Actually, it's BATED breath.

Laura said...

I can't imagine that I'm your only other reader. . .

I appreciate your posts. You are someone that handles your ups and downs with a lot of honesty and grace. That combination is hard to find.

And you're an awesome poet.

Hopefully your 41st b-day comes with more fun :)

Kathleen said...

Well, I make four readers (if Anonymous actually deserves to be counted--hmph!).

It was great to practice listening with you. I want you to know that I consider you an ally, even if we don't schedule listening time.

Thanks for all you do to help me be a better person.

Hoontah said...

I'm reader number five. Hm, what does that mean?

Thanks for the update. I always love reading about your busy life. Though my experiences have been different (not quite 40) the emotions that go along with them parallel yours. So I'll tell you what I've been telling myself about 50 times a day, "Hang in there, the path will become clear."

And thanks for the video. I missed the conference this year so it was nice to have that little snippet of nostalgia.

Hope your busy July is fantastic

Jennifer B. said...

Looks like you got a standing ovation! Even at 40, you still got it.
I'm sad about your birthday. A milestone like that deserves to be celebrated. When I think of what you have accomplished, I am truly impressed. I hope you get some time to let all your successes sink in and to enjoy all the good you have experienced in your 40 years. You continue to be an inspiration to me and I hope this year will bring a lot of happiness.

Thanks for posting!

Darlene Young said...

Trust you for knowing that, Kathryn!

And Kathleen, I was glad to be by you. It was a pretty amazing experience, wasn't it?

Thanks for hanging with me, Laura and Kristi and Jen.

Anonymous said...

Hey--I was in the poetry class at the Segullah retreat. I LOVED IT. I honestly wish we had more time than we were alloted to dig deeper into that meaty poetry stuff. You did a great job and it really gave me hope...hope that I can be the kind of poet that my insides tell me I can be. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and your encouragement.

Where can I read some of your work? MORE MORE!! I WANT MORE!!! :)

Kathryn said...

It wasn't me, but if you look back, I DID wish you a happy birthday, just as right now I wish you a happy Uncle Nial's birthday.

Love, Kathryn

Cheri said...

Your poetry workshop was my favorite of the day. I was amazed at how you made poetry something concrete that I could actually practice and get better at. Thanks!