i went on a writing retreat and i imagine you have some questions

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Wait, who were all these people?
My internet friends. My friends, from the internet. Yes, I’m a total #Millennial—I fly halfway across the country to hang out with strangers I’ve only ever seen before in a Twitter avatar, and it worked out great.

Why were you there?
My friend Kate Brauning—writer, editor, intelligent and magnificent human being—invited me to celebrate the launch of her debut novel, How We Fall, and her friend Nikki Urang’s debut novel, The Hit List. She hosted ten of us for a retreat and then a Big Ol’ Party which her staff videographer/husband livestreamed to the Internet™.

Where at?
Omaha, City of Dreams!

Did you—
Yes, I ate a steak, duh. I also saw the Mutual of Omaha building.

Did you guys, like, drink and stuff?
You tell me.

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What did you do?
Sat around and typed. Mostly, we took over the little high-top bar-table in the lobby and clear away the weird centerpiece baskets of grass ball-things so that all eight seats could be filled with writers writing (in Alex’s case, VERY AGGRESSIVELY. Girl types like a machine gun).

What did you do?
I was working on the twenty-fifth version of the first day of school scene in the book I’ve been writing for two and a half years. I worked pretty hard on Saturday and really hard on Sunday and by the time we were loading up the car on Monday to get to Sioux Center for the #official #YALaunch party I decided that I had to scrap it all, again.

Oh. So then what did you do?
Alex and I sat in the backseat of Kate’s car and I read aloud a book about Chardonnay grapes and switched accents every paragraph. French was my best and Irish was probably my worst (I think I got about 12 accents in, total).

No, I mean about your book.
Right, so, when I was out of accents, Alex and I sat down and plotted out what my three main characters Wanted and Needed and how that could manifest through every scene in the first third of the book. I made a lot of useful notes and Alex got a little carsick from the smell of beef jerky (sorry!) Then I talked a lot with Bethany about retellings, and points of view, and characters, and it was useful and she was smart.

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(This was directed at the book, not Alex)

My solution came on Tuesday morning when I sat down to write an edit letter to myself. It’s the best idea I’ve had so far and I think it’s gonna work.

What else did you do?
Laugh like a crazy person. Drink like a fish. Put really nifty scribbly nail decals on my fingers (poorly) and make my hair do that thing. Sleep too late EVERY DAY and then have to awkwardly launch myself from bed when the maid knocked on the door so I could politely explain that, no, sorry, I’m not yet awake at nine in the AM, could she um please sorry come back thanks? Go around the room and read from our writing—every person, and every person was good. Answer interview questions ON CAMERA like a REAL FAMOUS PERSON and wonder if I should really write that book about centaurs. Make this gif, I don’t even know:

output_KNSBEp Get gas at a Kum-and-Go (cultural touchstone of the Midwest). Watch the swirling midnight Iowa snow outside the car windows on the way home and feel suddenly very, very sad in the pit of my chest. Make friends. Gossip (a little). Leave my EpiPen in a restaurant like a dingus only to have our very kind waitress return it to me the moment I recrossed the threshold. Fly home, optimistic, laden with ideas, and sleepy.

Please list all the inside jokes.

  1. Omaha, City of Dreams!
  2. This version of the Jurassic Park theme song
  3. This version of “Wrecking Ball”
  4. This version of “My Heart Will Go On”
  5. Okay, really just anything involving recorders
  6. “Just use another cheese as the cracker for the cheese.”
  7. Cake Brauning, Éclair Thornburgh, Alex Yuschip (or Yuscheese)
  8. That one time I made Alex cry with laughter when I brought up the Chicken Bone Incident of ’13 at dinner
  9. Geckos
  10. BLOODBEARD, my as-yet-nonexistent feminist heavy metal collective

Please list all the snacks, sparing no detail.
Triscuits, Wheat Thins, microwaveable cakes, pumpkin bread, baby carrots, snap peas, sharp cheddar, another block of cheese that I think was Monterey Jack?, herb brie, Cheetos, beef jerky, Fritos, Cheese-Its Snack Mix, almonds (not for me), KitKats, Reese’s Cups (also not for me), Starbursts, M&Ms, Dove chocolates (the kind with inspirational messages on the wrapper), smoothie shots, fruit-flavored water, Goldfish (crackers), apples, the good kind of very dark purple grapes, smoked Gouda, mini cupcakes.

What was the best part?
Nearly everything.

I admire Kate so much: she is driven, smart, inventive, generous, kind, articulate, and a fantastic writer. She is just on, man. And what a thing to do for so many people. I suggest you go Buy! Her! Book!

What was the worst part?
When I came downstairs at 9:15 and the hotel breakfast was already out of egg-and-spinach sandwiches even though breakfast was not officially over until 9:30, dammit.

Oh God!!!! What did you do?
Ate two instant oatmealz and listened to Daft Punk. U no how I do.

Let’s get one more gif of you and Alex, please.
Done.

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