Friday, May 5, 2017

Plot Points

I’m usually focusing on plot points in writing, but we all have plot points in our lives as well. This Saturday I am taking a class at Pierce College in their extension program. It’s a computer class on Quickbooks which I need for the family business. It reminded me that the community college has provided a number of plot points in my life. Some big, some small, but all interesting.

Pierce is different than the other L.A. area community colleges. It sits on four hundred acres a lot of which is dedicated to their agriculture school. It has changed over the years. Fields used to be planted with crops, there were cows and chickens, and a farm store that sold produce and fresh eggs. The hills that surrounded the school would be dotted with steers snacking on grass. I remember taking my son to see just born pigs. There was a horse barn, and areas for goats and sheep.

The cows and chickens are long gone and the farm store torn down. The fields seem to be planted sometimes. There is a big horse barn, but the pigs are gone. There may still be sheep and goats.

The farm area was only a small plot point. When I was writing SILENCE OF THE LAMBS WOOL, I went to Pierce for their farm walk event. I was able to see a sheep being sheared, watch the steps that turned wool into yarn and talk to the people involved with those activities.

The more important plot point is that I took my first writing class there. It was part of the extension program. I had a wonderful teacher who opened up a whole world for me. She gave me encouragement and also offered information on how to submit work, and gave ideas where to submit it. I sold my first magazine article thanks to that class. It was a round up piece on vegetarian restaurants in the San Fernando Valley. I also sold my first mystery story to Woman’s World. Later when I joined my teacher’s private workshop, I followed my dream of writing a mystery novel.

I took a screenwriting class there as well and using what I learned wrote a screenplay that was a winner in a Writer’s Digest contest.

On a dare, I signed up for an improve comedy class, which was definitely out of my comfort zone, but turned out to be a great experience. The other students were an interesting bunch and I have used what I learned in that class in my life and writing.

The acting for non actors wasn’t so satisfying, but it made me push my own personal envelope a little further.

I used what I learned in the magic class in the screenplay I wrote – it was about a kid who loved magic – and in the Yarn Retreat series since one of the characters is a magician.

Tap dancing and ballet – well, they were a challenge for my feet. And actually connected to my childhood. They had tap lessons after school at my elementary school. I got the taps, but couldn’t afford to put them on my shoes. So, finally in the Pierce class I got real tap shoes. I took ballet as a kid (and had ballet shoes), but I was discouraged by the teacher because of my knock knees. The ballet class finally gave me the chance to learn how to twirl.

I took classes with grades and credits, too. There was a journalism class that was filled with kids just out of high school. Their ridiculously childish behavior shows up in the Crochet series when Dinah talks about her frustration with her freshmen students.

The film class changed my view of movies forever. The photography classes were at the time when there was only film and I got the excitement of learning how to develop my photographs.

I don’t expect the computer class to rock my world like the other ones did, but it will be fun to be on the grounds again. I love being a student!

1 comment:

Linda O. Johnston said...

Sounds as if Pierce has been a wonderful help to your writing and other things in your life. How fun!