Borderlands Bootcamp 2016

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This past weekend, I was in Baltimore for the Borderlands Bootcamp, which is a three-day intensive writing workshop that focuses on helping writers improve their craft and find out what’s working–and what’s not working–in their prose. If you can afford to go, it is a very worthwhile investment toward your writing. Here is a blog post from a wonderful Bootcamp grad Megan Arcuri that provides an excellent overview of how the whole weekend works, and I encourage everyone who is considering to attend to read her blog post, because I found it to be incredibly helpful.

Most of us had more than our fair share of transportation challenges with the Light Rail, buses, and taxi cabs, but in the end it all worked out. If you think you might want to go, there are shuttle services, including Supreme Shuttle, which is more affordable than taking a cab, but another good thing to do is to find out beforehand from any of your fellow participants whether someone has a car or plans to rent one to get to the hotel. As well, please note the workshop itself starts on Friday night, so be sure to look into that ahead of time.

After the introductions, each instructor gave us a brief overview of what they would cover over the course of the group sessions and gave a general overview of the most important components of writing covered by the workshop: plot, characterization, dialogue, and point of view. They explained the most common problems they see in manuscripts and why it’s important to recognize and eliminate them from our prose. They followed this with an interesting group exercise, after which we received instructions for the short writing exercise that would be due Sunday morning.

Saturday was all about getting down to business. Each participant (or grunt as the Bootcamp calls us) went to four different group sessions led by each of the instructors where we discussed the major issues with each person’s piece. I found the majority of people to be honest and forthcoming. The participants certainly didn’t mince words, but they were respectful for the most part. The instructors also didn’t hold back, and one of the most educational things about the weekend was the all-encompassing nature of the feedback. Each instructor had something different to say, which I found extremely helpful in the sense that it gave each participant a very balanced and all-encompassing view of their work.

Although the Guest of Honor for this year, Peter Straub, had to back out due to illness, everyone understood the situation and wished him a speedy recovery. On Saturday evening, Doug Winter, one of the instructors, led a session about contracts and rights, which most folks found to be quite informative.

Sunday morning was all about the mad dash to print off our exercises to hand in to the instructors, checking out of hotel rooms, and convening together with the whole group to hear the instructors read our stories and provide feedback, which I also found to be quite useful.

And to wrap everything up, the instructors advised us to let things sit for a few weeks and to give our minds a chance to allow the feedback to sink in. They said it’s important not to rush into attacking our manuscript and hacking it to pieces so quickly. I’m definitely planning to take that advice and let everything percolate before I do anything drastic 😉

All in all, I found Borderlands Bootcamp 2016 to be incredibly useful and helpful and we all received lots of wonderful advice that will help us going forward. If you have heard great things about the workshop but you’re not so sure if it’s right for you, I urge you to consider going. It is a unique experience that will make you have “a-ha!” moments and realize why you have been stuck on your work for so long, something that I consider invaluable.

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