On Saturday I met in Hot Springs with most of the members of the workshop I led at Wildacres last summer. They were all eager to continue work on their books and had arranged to hire me to critique an additional twenty pages for each of them. For the past month, everyone has read and critiqued everyone else's work to be ready for this day. The group rented a house for the weekend and we settled in for a long day of work-shopping those pages.
The group calls themselves The Phrog Bus for reasons arising from silly jokes we shared last summer (you had to be there, trust me.) Their novels are as diverse as they are -- futuristic, post-apocalyptic thriller, political thriller, traditional mystery, and just plain good stories about interesting people meeting challenges in their lives.
We spent about an hour on each set of pages and, as always happens in these workshops, the input of the group was incredibly useful. If, as a writer, you're particularly attached to something in your own work, it's easy enough to ignore a suggestion from one person. But if the majority of a group have trouble with something you've written, it's time to pay attention -- assuming it's your goal to reach a wide audience and you're not just writing for your own pleasure.
I was also thrilled to find that the writing had tightened up and gotten more focused since last summer. The Phrog Bus -- Dianna, Sharon, Claude, Lourdes, Joni, Rosemarie, and Karen (who took the pictures and, alas, isn't shown here) -- is a hardworking group but they know how to have fun.
We took a quick break for sandwiches and then forged ahead with our work-shopping, bolstered by the knowledge that Rosemarie had a special treat in store for our dinner. That sweet thing had prepared a dinner following a menu from IN A DARK SEASON -- Beef bourguignon, parslied potatoes, a Painter's Salad, and chocolate mousse.
Rosemary had even brought glass plates from home to serve the salad on -- since that's the way it was described in the book. And the meal was accompanied by Biltmore red wine -- 'a naive little domestic, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption' -- again from the book (though first, let me hasten to add, from a cartoon in the THE NEW YORKER that Elizabeth and I read years ago.)
What a terrific conclusion to a long and rewarding day!