Below are the classes I attended with a recap of what I learned and/or my impressions:
Hour 1: Writing Your Inner Feral Child with Deborah Woodard
“We’ll touch upon Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the mysterious Kaspar Hauser, a legendary feral child who has inspired books and films. Then, we’ll explore a feral child alter ego. Appropriate for all genres.”
None of the classes I wanted were available during the first hour. Of my choices, this class seemed like the best one. While I’m sure the class helped other writers, I was not one of them. A little too out there for me. She had us drawing to get in touch with our inner feral child. On the plus side, she was one of two people who referenced Frankenstein a week, so I’m re-reading Mary Shelley’s classic now.
Hour 2: From History to Story with Susan Meyers
“You’ve got a life story to tell, but how can you turn “history” into a “story”? What should you include? And what should you leave out? Come spend an hour digging into your life—and finding out!”
I would take a class with Susan Meyers. Her style was engaging, and her topic packed the room. She asked great questions, and people told stories. She focused on techniques found in the book The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative by Vivian Gornick, which I liked the idea of the book better than the book itself. A far better book to read on the subject is The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr.
Hour 3: Getting Unstuck with Joshua Marie Wilkinson
“Twenty-six hands-on methods to get your writing unblocked and flowing again.”
His enthusiasm didn’t quite match the subject matter, but he seemed like a nice guy. I ended up talking to him after class. He worked on some films made in Dublin. I asked if he knew of my mentor in college, Bob Enrietto, who helped set up the Dublin film commission. He had not, but I mentioned he was also known for punching out Don Bluth and he had heard that story.
Hour 4: Unleashing the Healing Power of Personal Storytelling with Ingrid Ricks
“In this hands-on mini-workshop, NYT bestselling author Ingrid Ricks shares her own healing and empowerment journey and writing lessons learned to help you unleash the power of personal narrative for yourself. Includes tips to identify and structure your story and two narrative writing exercises to help you bring your story to life.”
Intense and emotional best describes this class. If I planned on writing a memoir filled with complicated emotions, Ingrid would be a great mentor. The advice I took from her involved using more senses when describing scenes; smells, tastes, textures, etc. A great way to emphasize “show don’t tell” style when writing.
Hour 5: Write for Publications & Pay with Lora Shinn
“A quick intro to the world of paid freelance writing, and how you can get started – even if you’re an absolute beginner.”
This was hands down the best class. I’m planning on signing up for Lora’s five-week course which starts at the end of February. She provided stellar advice, great stories, and total genuine enthusiasm on the subject. I’m looking forward to the class and feel like we could chat for hours.
The whole day was worth the price of admission. I walked away armed with advice, ideas, and energy to write more. While the scheduling didn’t live up to my hopes and plans, I would attend this event next year.
One wintry Saturday, I will head to Hugo House for the first time.
Hugo House is a place where you can read words, hear words, and make your own words better. Hugo House is a place for writers, with a concentrated focus on helping anyone who wants to write. We offer readings, classes, book launches, workshops, teen programs, consultations with professional writers, and much more.
Hugo House hosts an event called “Write-O-Rama” where you can pick and choose from a list and attend any five classes of your choosing. Five whole classes! Doors open at Noon for registration since you can’t make your picks in advance. Each class lasts about 50 minutes giving everyone 10 minutes to scamper to the next class.
The event allows students to gain insight into courses Hugo House offers and a way to meet the instructors. Since this will be my first experience with this writing school, I love they offer a tasting menu or a speed date before you make any commitment on a piece of meat…err…class.
Top Five Reasons I’m Excited:
I miss taking actual classes. Online classes are not the same.
New people to meet outside of my usual social circles (or to be fair, it’s just one circle)
This will help with goal setting for the new year.
I need structure and hard deadlines. I blame Catholic school.
I chose six courses on the off chance one fills up or there’s a scheduling conflict. I’m all about having back up and contingency plans. Here’s the link to the full list.
My Six Selections (descriptions from the website):
From History to Story with Susan Meyers: You’ve got a life story to tell, but how can you turn “history” into a “story”? What should you include? And what should you leave out? Come spend an hour digging into your life—and finding out!
The Writing Life with Nicholas O’Connell: In her essay collection, Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor talks about writing as a habit of art that relies as much on regular practice as on inspiration. While inspiration plays a part in any literary breakthrough, the habit of art gives concrete expression to inspiration, making the poem, story or book possible. This class will provide practical tips about how to develop your own habit of art.
Your First Pages with Joe Ponepinto: Nothing is more critical to publishing success than having a compelling opening for your story. If your first pages don’t grab a reader, an agent, or a publisher, they’ll go on to the next submission. This session will help writers understand how to craft effective openings that keep readers engaged.
Unleashing the Healing Power of Personal Storytelling with Ingrid Ricks: In this hands-on mini-workshop, NYT bestselling author Ingrid Ricks shares her own healing and empowerment journey and writing lessons learned to help you unleash the power of personal narrative for yourself. Includes tips to identify and structure your story and two narrative writing exercises to help you bring your story to life.
Write for Publications & Pay with Lora Shinn: A quick intro to the world of paid freelance writing, and how you can get started – even if you’re an absolute beginner.
Getting Unstuck with Joshua Marie Wilkinson: Twenty-six hands-on methods to get your writing unblocked and flowing again.
Great. Now you’re excited. I knew this would happen. I swear on my pretty floral bonnet to report back on every class I attend so you know if our joy was justified or not. Have a mentioned that this is exciting? Did I tell you I mentally packed my backpack and have a shiny new notebook ready to go?
I know bookcases full of books exist about dream interpretation. Sometimes a dream has meaning or something your subconscious needs you to know. However, some dreams are a side effect of your short-term memory transferring to your long-term memories. This is one of those dreams.
My dream begins with an awkward holiday party at my high school French teacher’s house. Surprisingly, a modern-day setting and not a high school dream. [*Yesterday I watched a YouTube video of David Sedaris talking about Americans speaking French with American accents. We used to drive our French teacher nuts with our Chicago accents infecting our French inflections.]
Gifts are hidden sending us on a scavenger hunt. Taped to a nutcracker, I find the first gift. [*I mentioned to my co-worker how The Nutcracker and the Four Realms remains on my “to watch” list of movies.]
The dream continues with usual holiday shenanigans while I keep waiting for people to arrive to make the party less awkward. Someone comes in and says that I probably shouldn’t have left my phone charging in the car because someone might break in and steal it. I go outside to retrieve it.
While I’m out at the car, a partygoer comes up to me. I look up to see Vincent Chase standing before me inquiring if he can ask me out. I say, “of course.” He thinks we should go now, but I content that it would be rude to leave the party. I give him my number, and we head back in.
My brain is funny. Vincent Chase is from HBO’s Entourage. Not the actor who plays him, Adrian Grenier, but the character was the one who appeared in my dream. I have not watched Entourage recently. I don’t have any attraction to the actor or the character. He’s not my type. I do have a type, and you can see that on a Pinterest board I have called “Yes, Please.”
When I woke up, I sat in bed trying to think why on Earth he made a cameo and then it hit me. I watched a trailer for Aquaman yesterday.
If you watched Entourage, you should get the joke. For those that haven’t, in Season 3 James Cameron directs an Aquaman movie and casts Vinnie as the lead. Below is the movie clip they made for the show.
My brain saw Jason Momoa and translated it to the one true Aquaman.
I’m both emotionally and physically prepared to handle most kinds of emergencies with two exceptions: car problems and computer problems. I was raised with medical jargon so dealing with doctors and nurses do not vex me the way tech support and mechanics do. Everything sounds like expensive jibberish, and I don’t know who to trust.
In the beginning, I had a TRS-80 Model 1 with 5.25″ floppy disks and cassette tapes. I considered myself a major gamer hanging out with Poker Pete, bowling and playing pinball. Then came Tandy years (1000SX and 3000HL), which were my last computers before Windows came along. I spent hours playing Remote Control, Wheel of Fortune, Crimson Crown, and Wordfall.
After that, I couldn’t tell you the name of any computer I’ve owned or any of their technical stats. I’ve had two laptops and about six different desktops. All have been PCs with one exception. I was forced to buy an iMac for work reasons. Shudder. Let’s move on.
Flash forward to the year 2013. I bought a computer on Woot.com. Here are the stats (if you like that sort of thing):
Intel Core i7-3770 (3.4GHz) with Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz
12GB DDR3 (PC3-12800)
Radeon HD 8570 (2GB DDR3 dedicated)
2TB SATA (7200rpm)
Flash forward again to the year 2018. My desktop has served me well. I hadn’t needed any updates until Adobe decided that a five-year-old below average video card is no longer enough to run their programs. Pfff…whatever. Snobs.
I travel to my local Fry’s Electronics with a post-it note of what kind of video card I have and what Adobe is requiring. Once the employee ceases laughing, he explains that the lowest video card they have in stock is eight times better than what I have now. He points me to the aisle of choices and says I can pick anything and it will meet my needs. I choose an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Graphics Card for $120.
I install it myself and feel quite proud. *Whispers* In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m not good with technology. Three different friends who have helped me in the past are laughing right now and saying UNDERSTATEMENT. *Stops whispering*
Everything is humming along for about two months. Then one day, I turn my computer on, the fan starts up and stops. I reboot. Same. I let it sit and think about what it has done for a day or two. No change. I can log on and keep working, but I know that is a terrible idea. Mother puss bucket!
On my day off, I head to Fry’s again. The guy, we shall call him Bryan, says he agrees with me that the fan does stop once powered up. Bryan fiddles with it a bit and says he can’t see what the issue is. He recommends a new fan. Another employee walks me over to the section, and we pick out a fan. Bryan installs the fan. Remember Bryan. He comes back later in the story.
About a month and a half later, I turn my desktop on, and it goes to a black screen and says “Error: No boot disk has been detected or the disk has failed.” Well, I’m no expert, but that seems bad. I hop on my laptop and figure out how to get on the computer. I manage to log on with no noticeable problems. Weird. I reboot and “Error: No boot disk has been detected, or the disk has failed.” Son of a salesman!
I’m able to log on eventually after jumping through many, many hoops. I moved everything not nailed down on to my backup drive. I fear a need to reinstall Windows is in my future. I called Microsoft Tech Support and had a wonderful experience with a Tech named Maya. Everything is fine. The world makes sense again. This lasts for three whole days.
After rolling out of bed, I boot up the computer. All the usual noises happen, the red power light glows proudly, and nothing comes up on the screen. No warning. No blue screen of death. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch. I reboot. No change. I let it sit and think about what it has done for a day or two. Nothing happens. A deep sigh and primal scream.
The following Saturday morning, I head over to Fry’s. Bryan greets me. He remembers me. This may or may not be a bad thing. He fiddles with it for a bit and says that he can’t see why it isn’t starting. He would need 1-3 days to perform a diagnostic test because “your computer is so old.” My computer is only five years old. “Exactly. They don’t even make replacement parts for something that old.” Dude. My computer is in the prime of its life. I begrudgingly trusted this young whippersnapper and headed home.
Bryan calls me at Noon the following day. The below has been recapped and shortened for your reading pleasure.
“We figured out the problem. When the fan was installed, the fan was not actually hooked up to the right part, so nothing was being cooled. The motherboard overheated and burned out. You need a new computer.”
“Well, since you installed the fan, you will replace my computer then. Correct?”
“No. You can’t prove we did this. Someone else could have worked on it after us. It could have come from the factory like this. Also, we forgot to put the work order in the system before so there’s no real record of anything we did. On top of that, I never would have done this. Not something I would do.”
“But you did. No one else has touched my computer except you.”
“You can’t prove that.”
“I can because it’s the truth. Wait a minute. How long would the motherboard have lasted if nothing was cooling it? And if it was like that from the factory, wouldn’t you have noticed that when you replaced the fan?”
“Hard to say, but maybe or maybe not.”
“How are we going to resolve this?”
“I will talk to my manager and call you back.”
He hangs up. Imagine if you will, a stream of cursing that would embarrass drunk sailors on leave. I’m pretty aggravated, but I have hope the manager will come to my aid. Seven hours pass and no call. I call back.
Bryan says, “We’ve been trying to reach you. Your number has been busy.”
“My phone is working fine. Other people were able to call me. Anyway, what did your manager say?”
“He said you can’t prove a thing. You need to replace your computer. We’re not at fault, so you have to pay for it.”
“I want to talk to him directly.”
“He’s gone for the day and off tomorrow. You can call him on Tuesday.”
“Umm…no. You have him call me on Tuesday and explain this.”
“He’s too busy to talk to customers. You have to call and see if you can catch him. We can’t tell him to call you.”
“What is his name?”
“Mike what? That’s a common name.”
“I can’t give you his last name. We never release last names.”
“I don’t know. We just don’t.”
“None of this makes any sense. You understand why I’m angry, right?”
“I guess. I don’t know what to tell you. Talk to Mike on Tuesday.” Bryan hangs up.
Furious anger consumed me. The above conversation went in circles, and I had Bryan explain everything again. Some discussion of the exact piece that burned out and maybe I could find a used one on eBay. My blood was boiling.
For the next two days, I’m running through all kinds of scenarios and questions. This was a scam they were running to convince people with “ancient” computers to replace them. They intentionally sabotaged my system to get me to buy a new one. Bryan screwed up, refused to admit it, and no one named Mike works there. How does small claims court work? Would I pay to have my computer fingerprinted to prove Bryan was the only one who touched it? I’m ready for war by the time I talk to Mike…if that is indeed his name.
Tuesday comes, and on my lunch hour, I speak to Mike. He checked my computer and spoke with his techs. Mike apologized and said everything Bryan told me was wrong. The problem consisted of a post on the motherboard burning out. Nothing to do with the fan which was hooked up correctly. I relayed the conversation from my perspective and mentioned how he refused to give me his last name. Mike said that was weird because there is no reason to withhold last names nor is it their policy.
I feel a bit better. “So what happens now? Do I need to buy a new computer or can I salvage what I have?”
“Well, most of the parts are fine. You need a new motherboard, processor, and hard drive. Your video card, optical drive, and CD-ROM are all fine.”
To put in car terms, you know my second favorite thing, he said “Well, most of your car is fine. You would just need a new engine, carburetor, and alternator. But your windows, oil, and seats are all fine.”
“How much will this cost? I don’t need much. I use Photoshop and Microsoft Office products. I’m not a gamer, nor do I edit video, or record podcasts.”
“I’ll see what we have, call you back, and give you different options. Sound good?”
“Great. I’ll wait for your call.”
True to his word, he called back within the hour. He could give me a processor that is four generations newer than mine, slightly less RAM (2 GBs less), and a new motherboard for $275. He confirmed he would wave the labor because of everything that happened.
Basically, a virtually new computer for under $300 and two days of aggravation. Mike believed he could have everything ready by the end of the day and would give me a call when I could pick it up.
Turned out that Windows wasn’t loading correctly, so it took until Thursday. I’m happy to report that my computer works great.
The moral of the tale is sometimes you really do need to speak to the manager. Also, bad customer service can become good customer service.
Now, if you will excuse me, the “change oil” light came on in my car even though I had it changed a month ago. I wish I were kidding.
I’m a Type A personality who over-researches and over-plans things. This blog is about loosening up and not overthinking everything. I let myself worry for an hour about what to call this blog. The name could set the tone in the wrong direction. I decided to lean into the fear and go with “A Badly Named Blog.”
My other blog, The Questing Geek, has a singular focus revolving around my love of entertainment. While movies, television, and books are a large part of my life, I have many other topics I would like to discuss. Instead of trying to section them into different areas, I decided to have a personal blog. I plan to keep the entertainment portions on the other blog.
At this point, there are no guarantees of what I’m going to write about or how frequently I post. Check out my other blog if you want a sense of my formal writing style. Feel free to comment, share, or like as needed.