Andy Kessler Day + Gotham Writers = Good Weekend

My weekend was good with a skateboard event I attended Saturday and a Writing Workshop I took all day Sunday. Two interests in my life were covered. Maybe having a full schedule can combat boredom and keep me out of trouble. So I’ll make on entry here on my thoughts of these two things from this weekend, and come up with a game plan for future weekends.

On facebook I became aware of the Andy Kessler Memorial skate jam at House of Vans. A lot of people are skeptical of facebook and call it a waste of time. One of the positives of facebook and future social media, if you have an interest, hobby, or passion it is so easy to find out what organizations or people are doing with that activity. I feel connected to the New York City skate scene without being that involved in it or making an effort. Through NY Skateboarding, a few skate shops, Steve Rodriguez’s page, and other skaters I know of various events going on. Most of them I pass on, but this was for a good cause.

Andy Kessler passed away a few years ago from a bee sting while skating. He was involved with New York City skating since the 70’s and in the 90’s helped start the building of parks. There is a foundation in his name that carries on his goals. According to the website it promotes music and art as well as skateboarding. This event on last Saturday said they suggested a 5 dollar donation and participants could skate the new House of Vans park in Brooklyn, so I decided to go.

The House of Vans is a private indoor and outdoor park owned by the very successful shoe company. Since it’s private not everyone can skate it usually. I think it was nice for them to open up the space for this donation drive event. Being able to skate and see this park was probably a big draw for a lot of the attendees. Plus they have pool skating there, and according to the documentary, ‘Deathbowl to Downtown’ Kessler and other skaters brought that California type skating toNew York City.

Probably the most positive thing about this event was that people showed up for it, and a lot of older skaters did too. I am a spring chicken compared to some of the guys I saw. And it was a high energy skate jam for a memory of someone they cared deeply about. I think people just skating was a good statement.

They had bands playing too, but I focused mostly on the skating. I think I learned a lesson, in that it’s okay to be a spectator at events. I tried to skate and got nervous from it being so crowded. I did not hurt myself, but did get in some people’s way. I am not at ease in crowded parks, and there would have been no shame to simply watch the good skaters. People that cut me off or skate faster than me are not jerks, they are just better skaters, and I should recognize that I don’t need to prove myself in a crowded park. I think it’s safer to avoid skating in super crowded parks or at events. Since my skate time is limited, most days I should go to the parks and not events. But this was a special occasion.

From going to parks regularly for the past few years I’m starting to know skaters here.  I noticed and said hello to at least 10 skaters if not more.  For about half an hour I skated a little flatland area with some of the crew from the Forest Park skate park. I like feeling part of something outside of work and I think that is healthy. I was at the Andy Kessler Memerial from about 5:30 to 8:00 and I’m glad I went.

Now to shift gears and talk about the great workshop I went to today. I few weeks ago I looked up Gotham Writer’s on the internet. I found a workshop for Sunday August 7 and thought why not, I have Sundays off. I realized that I have not been instructed in writing since I was in undergrad over a decade ago. Also I noted that since I started writing my blog a few years ago I stopped writing fiction or essays. I have not sent anything out in years. So my ambition was to take this class and then write fiction or something to send out from what I learned. This workshop met and exceeded my expectations.

Early on the teacher, Michael Phillips, explained the structure of the story. In my own words it starts with the everyday of someone’s life, then something significant happens, a goal or problem to solve is set and steps taken to achieve that goal or handle the problem, goal is resolved or problem solved in a positive or negative way, and it ends with how this happening changed the character’s life. I wrote down the terminology and took notes, but I feel I grasp it now. I’m sure I learned this in my college creative writing classes, but now it makes sense. I feel on my previous attempts at fiction I simply wrote in a way that I thought stories should work. I’m hoping with a better understanding of structure I can plan out and execute a story better. That in itself was worth the price of the one day course to me.

One coincidence made me happy early on in the day. The teacher heartily recommended “Writing Fiction’ by Janet Burroway. I already have this from my undergrad creative writing class. In that college class we read parts of it that pertained to the different weeks of the course, but my memory is hazy. I really think that I may have a better grasp of learning this stuff now. So I will read this book cover to cover and see if it helps.

The teacher put a lot of time explaining ‘sensory detail’ which is to describe sight, sound, taste, smell, and feel. On the exercise for this I did not do well. I concentrate from moving the story from point A to B, and don’t think of how a particular action would feel if experienced.

There was a plethora of information given, and maybe to try to retain it, in a few days I will type out the notes. I won’t bother to write out my exercise parts, but I will write down what the scenarios were. They did make one think. Such as one of the later exercise on point of view was this: Write a scene of a person getting mugged from and objective  viewpoint, write the  same scene from the perspective of the victim, and lastly write the scene from the  perspective of the robber giving him some redeeming quality.

I found with the ten minute time frames these were difficult especially with my awful hand writing. But if I typed all the other notes, and those ten or so practice exercises I could practice on my own time.

The practice writing was good, and afterwards people would read what they wrote. I read a few, and got feedback. Listening to others was interesting too, and I realized on a few that I didn’t fully follow the instructions. So I learned from that too, in that stories are layered. A description of a box in not just words but needs to have a place in the story.

Lastly one advice the teacher had was that in a short story every sentence needs to move the story along and is an important part of the story. So published short stories can go through 50 to a 100 revisions by the author. For my blog I never revise. A long time has passed since I wrote something to send out. The stuff I got on hackwriters I revised those pieces perhaps 5 or six times. So my new goal is to write a first draft of a story on my vacation next week, and then revise it no less than 50 times. On revisions though I won’t do my usual typo check and slight tweaking, but change scene orders, delete and add, and try to make it the best I can do.

This weekend was good because I kept busy, so I’ll book up my time and plan out my weekends better. In fall maybe I’ll set up a weekly class of some kind, perhaps with Gathom Writer’s.

That’s all.

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