Tomorrow, my friend Tom Ormbrek and I are sailing an eighty-mile passage from Ilwaco, Washington at the mouth of the Columbia River to Westport, Washington at the mouth of Grays Harbor. We’ll leave at three in the afternoon and arrive at seven in the morning. Or nine, or noon depending on the wind and the seas.
We will sail on The Lady Washington, the official ship of the State of Washington. It also happens to be the ship used in The Pirates of the Caribbeanand and many other films. Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom stood upon it many a time.
Tom is a good friend and a very astute fellow from a lively, intelligent family. His brother knows everything there is to know about old films. And his other siblings are equally interesting. His niece Layla is a writer. His mother Virginia is wonderful women of about ninety who remembers much more than I’ve forgotten. Tom is a tin bender, as he describes himself. He’s a union man, making his living creating parts for Boeing aircraft. And an expert on Northwest and general American history, Mark Twain, the gold rush, etc. Tom eschews commercial television in favor of PBS and C-SPAN. And he plays a wicked harmonica.
I am going to see what life was like on a two-hundred year old ship. The Lady Washington is a replica of one by the same name that sailed the Pacific long ago. I want to sail on the closest thing I can to a real pirate ship as background for a children’s novel I am currently writing.
I’ll try to post from the trip, if technology allows.
Eighth-grade Critique Group
This was the second round of criticism for these students. They read a very early version of The Inventors’ Daughter – so early, in fact, that it was called Erin Isabelle and the Wicked Uncle. All of those who read the first draft were invited by their teacher Brian to read the second. I don’t know if one can draw a strong conclusion from this, but only girls volunteered to critique the rewrite.
As you can tell from the photograph, they are a wonderful and spirited group, and they were very generous in their opinions and support. Though their comments were somewhat more detailed, they agreed with the assessment of the fifth-grade group entirely. (See next post above.) Those points were exactly what I was looking for. I tend to ignore a single person’s comments, unless they resonate with my own feelings. But I take the unanimous enthusiasm for the work and the pinpoint critiques of sixteen middle-grade readers very seriously indeed.
One thing that inspired me about this group is how close they are. Obviously they know one another well after at least three years together, but there is something else. The very fact that they volunteered to re-read a manuscript demonstrates a shared intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm for exchanging ideas that is a credit to their school, their teacher and most especially to themselves.
I finished my outline for the new story today. It took me a couple of weeks, but I’m satisfied that writing it was a good idea.
I have mixed feelings, not about the outline itself, but about knowing so much about the plot. The less you know about your journey the more exciting it is. But, as any veteran traveller can tell you, there is a danger in not knowing what’s ahead.
There are two good things about this outline:
Firstly, I won’t end up retreating from blind alleys having forgotten important aspects that must be brought forward. No stranger to this behavior, I’ve spent many days reworking the messes I’ve gotten myself into.
Secondly, with plot in hand, I can concentrate on the richer characters that a solid story can support. Hopefully I will be able delve deeper into the circumstance, behavior and dialog of each. Laborious and difficult as a writing an outline can be, these three-thousand words may save this writer the frustration and indignation of the dreaded page-one rewrite.