tcastleb: (Pooka)
([personal profile] tcastleb Apr. 27th, 2009 05:07 pm)
Now that my brain isn't mush (due to lots of useful feedback and lots of driving) here's a more formal write-up of my sojurn into the desert for a long weekend at [livejournal.com profile] dancinghorse's writing and communing with horses.

Horse Camp takes place out just southeast of Tucson. I drove out since I'm just over in San Diego (six hours away) though the Tucson airport is pretty darn close if you'd rather fly. Desert. So if you like heat and cacti (like I do) you're in for a treat. Plenty of wildlife, quail, roadrunners, various other birds, lizards, rabbits, and if you're lucky, you'll get to see this guy:

Gila Monster

Inside the house are three very sweet, funny and cute kittens and one older fuzzy cat and a couple of nice dogs. And then, of course, there are the horses. Lipizzans. His royalness, Pooka:

Pooka

And the rest of the herd, which, at the moment, is six ladies and a gelding. L-R: Ephiny, Camilla (facing us) Carma (behind her), Kephra (the gelding), Pandora, and Capria's head. There's also Tia, but she's not in this pic. And there's the lovely sunset to give you an idea of the atmosphere, at least in late April.



[livejournal.com profile] birdhousefrog and I were fortunate enough to take lessons with S, a wonderfully nice and knowledgable lady. She got [livejournal.com profile] birdhousefrog and I to use our writerly imaginations and really get an idea of how we sat on the horse, and how balanced we were, and how often we forgot to breathe. Yes, lots, and the fascinating thing is how it really shows in the horse and how they react to the slightest body movements of their rider. And when you try to do something, it doesn't usually work. Like, say, stopping. But when I just thought of stopping, the rest of me did too, and Capria stopped. And, when I was getting her going at a good walk, and I was thinking, faster, well, she went faster, at a trot, and I had a slightly bruised behind to show for it. :>) But we had fun. Yes we did!

This is me on Capria, who is an excellent teaching horse. Not scary at all. I haven't ridden a horse since summer camp when I was about 8, and those horses are nothing compared to the ones here. These ladies and gents are smart, generous, and quite eager to do things. Did I mention I got to trot? YAY! And the horses are all trained to lunge lines, so S won't let them run away with you. Not that they would.

Me on Capria

And if you get stressed out (from writing, or feedback, like I did) you can feel free to wander down to pet with the horses. They're wonderful listeners, and calming and soothing to be near. Yeah. Who could resist a warm, fuzzy face like Pandora's? (Oh, and see that white tape stuff? Don't touch it. Found that out the hard way when my shirt brushed it. ZAP!! )

Pandora

There's touristy things nearby too if you want to stretch your legs a bit. Like, Colossal Cave Mountain Park, and Saguaro National Park, and, to my delight (because I LOOOOVE Westerns) TOMBSTONE!!

Yes, I wore my cowboy hat. Lots of stores, lots of museums (including a reptile one where, for $3, a nice lady takes you around the room and shows you all the snakes, scorpions, spiders, and lizards and tells you about them.) And of course there's the haunted Birdcage Theater (it *feels* haunted, I swear) and the shootout at the OK Corral. It's fun, and totally worth it if you like anything about the old west. An hour or so away from [livejournal.com profile] dancinghorse.

Tombstone st.

And here's the shootout re-enactment with Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp. Doc Holliday's there but not in the pic.

DSC_0089

And boot hill. See that shootout above? These are the guys that died. Yes, really!

McClaurys



And then there was the writing bit. [livejournal.com profile] birdhousefrog got more writing done, since she was there longer than I was and had some specific goals in mind. Me, I didn't end up getting any done. I'd done a bit of on-line mentoring with [livejournal.com profile] dancinghorse beforehand on my novel, and I'd sent her a short story (which was related to the book) just before I got there. So I got the feedback for the story, and ended up thinking over that rather than writing. And petting horses. And digging through some of J's books for writing examples. Lots of good things to think about. And horse camp also includes some one-on-one mentoring, so [livejournal.com profile] dancinghorse and I had a good discussion about specific writing things as well coming up with some plot and story and worldbuilding ideas for the novel and short story. Good enough that the first chance I got I ran (okay, walked briskly) to the library for some research materials. :>)

Overall, it's totally worth it. I've done Clarion, and Taos Toolbox and gotten an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and even this brief little writing weekend is entirely comparable to any of those. The best part is just being able to get away from real life and write (or try to. Or think about it. Hard.) which is part of the attraction of the formal programs. Doing it with a good writing friend makes it even better. The horses make it unique. And J is one of the most knowledgable people I've met when it comes to writing and the business. Totally worth it, especially if the programs I mentioned above are out of your budget or if you know something's wrong/missing in your work and you don't know what it is. Even if you can't get there in person, the on-line mentoring is wonderfully useful as well.

And for me I thought it was really cool to see the parallel between riding and writing, or, really, any art in general. All these things to keep in your mind and practice (breathe, balance, loosen up vs. dialog, character, tension, prose) until you can do them naturally without thinking so hard. I haven't actually written since I've gotten back, just thinking. A lot. Researching. Letting the feedback sink in so when I get going again it'll be that much better.

Anyway. I can't wait to go back; I miss the horses terribly. And food. Yummy food, all the more yummy for someone who lives alone and doesn't cook a lot for herself. Homemade bread. Mmmmm. And for more detailed info from [livejournal.com profile] dancinghorse, go read her post on How Horse Camp Works.

(and if this sounds like a sales pitch, well, it sort of is. :>) Go visit [livejournal.com profile] dancinghorse online or in person. You won't regret it.)
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