For the summer of 2006, Hopkins decided to offer some workshops in Florence, Italy where the school owned a property, Villa Spelman. The trip was too good to pass up even though I knew it would put undue stress on my already stretched budget. A friend from one of my Washington classes and I started looking for cheap flights and accommodations we could share to save money.
Two teachers from Hopkins would lead our workshop, Alice McDermott and Jean McGarry, which was kind of intimidating. Jean had already impressed me with her knowledge and her writing skills . Her standards would be high. Alice had won a National Book Award. Need I say more? Workshopping parts of my novel was the obvious way to make the most out of the situation, but which parts?
Around the time Hopkins announced they had enough people to justify the class (unlike the London trip the year before), I’d dumped that 100 pages and started a new beginning. I took the first half of my last chapter of the book as a first chapter and my very first rendition of the first chapter of the book and made it my second chapter.
I had three weeks until my two draft chapters were due in the program’s front office. They were going to copy all of the submissions for the workshops and send out packages to everyone before the trip. We would be reading the books required for our fiction section and writing comments on other people’s submissions prior to the workshop.
By this time, my writing had improved a great deal since I’d drafted the scenes. I couldn’t submit them as they were. Luckily, I’d signed up for workshop dates in my current class early in the semester and had finished my revision of my “white shit” story for the Spring term. I’d expected to do my revisions to the chapters at my leisure after class was over, now my revisions were due in three weeks.
Procrastination is not unknown to me. Neither is committing to finish a project within a specified time. At my day job, I’d finished regulations and scientific papers in record times, spending day and night rewriting them more times than I’ve ever rewritten my short stories. The beginning of my novel had been the exception and now, I needed to find the right tone, clean-up the prose, and do all that rearranging we do, one more time.