Monday, July 16, 2012

Wildacres - A Week on the Mountain

There was sun at Wildacres and two glorious days of breezy weather after the heat of the first day . . .

The patio draws the contemplative types during the day . . . and the party animals at night. 

One attends classes either morning or afternoon. When students aren't in class, they can sit in on other classes, hike, nap, catch up with friends from last year, or maybe even do some writing That is, if they aren't practicing for a skit later in the week. 

There are faculty readings on two nights and student readings on two more nights.
This is my class (minus one) below -- Commercial Fiction. On the last night of camp, there is the traditional Gong Show in which serious writers get very silly indeed. We did a skit called Very Commercial Fiction, in which, among other things, we counseled Jane Austen on how to write a best seller.

 J.A. (very shy): Is this the right class? My name is Austen, Jane Austen and I’m writing a comedy of manners about young women looking for husbands and-

STUDENT 3: Yeah, yeah, chick lit – great, you’ve come to the right place – we can help you. 

STUDENT 5: Janie, sweetheart, first of all, what are the clothes like in your novel? Tight, and sexy, lots of cleavage? . . . Jimmy Choo stilettos-  

JA (shocked) Stilettos? No, I’m afraid not. My characters wear flat slippers or half boots when they go walking and there is no cleavage – they wear fichus.

STUDENT 3: Gesundheit! STUDENT 4: Bless you!
JA: No, fichus, (pointing to her own)  gauzy little-

STUDENT 5: Yeah, yeah – listen, Janie, lose the fichus. And walking? No, no, no – your protag has to have a sexy ride – a Beemer or maybe a Minicooper or-

VICKI: What’s your working title?

JA: I’m calling it Pride and Prejudice.

VICKI: Ooh, interracial romance – that could be nice- Lose the Pride though  -- let's go with Passion and Prejudice? That’ll grab ‘em.
You probably had to be there. . .
It rained a lot -- but spirits were not dampened.  Below is the dining hall very early. Normally all the tables are full. (There were around 80 campers plus faculty and staff -- almost a hundred altogether.)
Breakfast is buffet style, lunch and dinner are family style with the food already on the tables. Everyone is encouraged to sit at a different table each time so we can get to know others than just those in our class.

 All the classes are 'workshops' -- which is to say the students submit 15 pages for the teacher and the others in the class to read and critique before coming to Wildacres.

Then, during the classes, these pages are thoroughly discussed . . . and the writers may learn several things from the wisdom of the group: my class learned that their stories may actually need to begin on page ten. They may be giving us way too much information (back story) at the expense of the action. We may dislike their main character . . . or not be sure who the main character is.

It sounds harsh -- especially to the beginners in the class (there were some and they did fine, really!) but most students feel they've learned a lot -- not only from the workshopping of their own pages but from studying the other submissions. 

 And there's always the consolation of hanging out with brilliant students and faculty -- including Ron Rash, whose best-selling  novel Serena is being made into a film starring Jennifer Lawrence (recently star of The Hunger Games.)

Every morning there are moths clinging near the outdoor lights -- 
(more of these in a later post.)

We arrive on Saturday and by Tuesday it seems as if we've always been here and it will go on forever. By Thursday, however, events are sliding by in a blur and all too soon  it's Saturday morning and time to say goodbye to Wildacres.  

It's a great experience.
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Ms. A said...

That place looks so amazing, I can't believe you used the word "campers". That's not like any camping I've ever done, but I sure would like to.

Your moth beats the snot out of my drab brown one. That's beautiful!

Eva said...

That looks so nice! :-)

Victoria said...

What a stunningly beautiful place! You got to hang out with Ron Rash? And, he got to hang out with YOU. I'm envious of both of you!

Martin said...

Thanks for sharing some of your experiences with us, Vicki. Wildacres sounds very rewarding, with a strong fun element.

When I studied with the Open University, I eagerly looked forward to the summer schools. Although I attended my last in 1996, I'm still in contact with six or seven people from over the years.

Pat in east TN said...

Sounds like a good time and a great place to be.

Brian Miller said...

haha that skit sounds fun...i would love to attend one of these some time....def fascinated by the opportunity to go through the process...

Kath said...

What an idyllic combination of work and beauty.
Could you share more on how to apply for this?

Vicki Lane said...

Kath -- follow the WILDACRES hot links in the post. Or go to

for a look at the process. It's too early to apply for next year but you can get a sense of what's involved -- writing sample -- money -- (though there are a few scholarships)

Mel said...

Wildacres looks like the perfect place to write, think or just be. You made me homesick for North Carolina - we had to skip our summer trip this year, so I'll miss the Luna Moths. Yours is so lovely. And your royal walnut moth from the previous post is also a beauty.

I've really enjoyed your photos, and your peek inside the workshop.

Barbara Rogers said...

Lovely. SO glad that you all shared inspiration. Skit is obviously inspired. What a setting! And where were you standing to take the birdseye view of dining room?

Vicki Lane said...

Barb -- One enters on an upper level and goes down stairs to the dining room.I was at the top of the steps.

NCmountainwoman said...

I totally get the skit even though I wasn't there. I know I would love the workshop except for the work part of workshop. Could I pay to go and watch and listen, but not have to write? I can't write but I would dearly love to hear the writers and students and just be surrounded by such talent.

Star said...

Sounds wonderful Vicki. Looks relaxing and thought provoking. That moth is so beautiful.
Thank you for telling us about it.

Vicki Lane said...

NC Mountainwoman -- there are auditors (see below); maybe you have a writer friend who would sign up

-- ADMISSION REQUIREMENT EXCEPTIONS: If you have a friend or spouse who would like to accompany you, they are welcome. (The fee for this person is also $680.) Only one person in the room is required to take part in the workshop.

Darla said...

Thanks for sharing the experience, Vicki. Love all the fab fotos; especially that moth ... glorious ... almost unreal looking. And the earlier photoshopped ones were way cool!

After you mentioned it last year, I kept popping into their web site and was desperately hoping to submit a bit of my current manuscript and get into a workshop this year. Alas, when we ended up moving a second time within 9 months of the initial move, I was a mess and no way could I get to NC (even if I'd been accepted in -- I imagine the selection process is tough). But I'll cross my fingers for next year! :-) Please say you'll be doing it again!

Vicki Lane said...

Darla -- If they ask me back (and I think they will,) I'll be there next year. I will also be at John C. Campbell in early June, teaching a basics of fiction class.