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American Past Time
A novel by Len Joy

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time


Skidmore College


For the last three days I’ve been living at Skidmore College in one of their “lightly” air conditioned dormitory rooms. I’m a participant in a Masters Class in Fiction, which is part of the New York State Summer Writers Institute. When the program ends next Friday (the 9th) I’ll drive the two hundred miles back to my mom’s house in Skaneateles. Then on Sunday the 11th I’ll travel to Geneva, New York and compete in the Musselman Half-Ironman Triathlon. This will be my first half-Ironman.

When I got the acceptance to Skidmore last April, signing up for Musslman seemed like a really clever way to schedule my time. I was already out here for the conference, why not try that race?

My coach thinks I will be okay for this race as long as I swim straight (which I didn’t do in my last race), but it’s his job to be optimistic. They have good athletic facilities here and yesterday I swam a mile in the pool (the half-Ironman swim is 1.2 miles). Today I was supposed to do a strength building bike ride, but after weaving through the streets of Saratoga for half an hour and finding nothing but traffic and traffic lights, I gave up and returned to campus. I guess it might have been a good idea to find a map or maybe even ask someone for directions. I’ll have to think about that.

My workshop leader this week is Joseph O’Neill. He introduced himself and told the class he’s never attended a writer’s conference or participated in a workshop. But his latest novel, "Netherland" won the Pen/Faulkner award so we all figured he probably had something to offer us aspiring writers.

In a workshop (this one has fifteen people) everyone submits about thirty pages of writing and each day two or three of these excerpts are critiqued by the class. It’s a good group, lots of diversity of backgrounds and experiences. Their feedback should be helpful. So far the stories have been a pleasure to read and comment on.

I also signed up for Skidmore’s manuscript consultation program, so a month ago I submitted the first 150 pages of the novel I’m working on to be read and critiqued by one of the Institute’s fellows. Today I got her feedback on what she had read.

The consultation process is a little bit like doing a twenty mile run through the hills on a hot and humid day. On the day of the race it should pay dividends, but it’s not a really fun experience.

I just hope that there is a “race day” in my writing future. It’s a long slog.


Mile 8 - Musselman Half-Ironman

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