Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Hotwash: "after-action" discussions and evaluations of an agency's performance following an exercise, training session, or major event


How did the workshops go?

Great, thank you. I had outstanding participants who played along with most of my slightly out-there exercises. The only bumps were:

...the part where I realized that Cord A plugs into cute little MacBook, and Cord B plugs into industrial-sized projector setup, but Cord A and Cord B refuse to.....how to put this delicately?....mate. All cords, including a third one never even opened, will be returned to the Apple Store today, along with a note that all three cords are not suitable matches for each other and should not be allowed to leave the store together, ever again.

....the part where I threw all my heavy bags into the trunk of my car, grabbed my just-the-essentials purse, and ran back into the building for the writing contest awards ceremony. As I lowered myself into my seat, I suddenly gripped the purse, which felt ominously thin. I unzipped it to find that my keys were not in it. They were, instead, locked inside my car trunk inside my jumbo tote bag with all my other things. Luckily, Pop-a-Lock responded quickly, and the cheerful woman who deftly broke into my car told me that she herself had once locked her keys in her car FOUR times in a three month period. On the fourth visit from Pop-a-Lock, the manager had said: You really should learn to do this yourself. Would you like a job? (That was three years ago. She says she answers between 15-20 calls a day. I would like to make 15-20 people happy every day, wouldn't you?)

...the part where I asked my workshop participants to do the 100 Questions Exercise, and told them they had 10 minutes. That's 10 questions every minute! One every six seconds! Yes, it can be done, maybe even should be done that quickly, but I'm lucky they didn't throw their pencils at me.

...the part where I concluded my presentation with a slide which read "What am I tyring (sic) to say?" One kind writer told me she thought it was a clever play on words.

But I don't mean to leave you with the impression that I didn't have an amazing day, because I did. Despite all the unexpected bumps, I was surprised the most by how willing the other writers in my workshops were to share their fears, struggles, and joys. Unlike laptop cords, we know how to connect. And while we sometimes lock ourselves out, we almost always let each other in. We're willing to try the impossible, and we look at mistakes as creative play.

I'm going to tweak my presentations to improve upon them after learning so much this first time. I will find the right laptop cord. I'll wear my keys on a string around my neck. I can't wait for the next time I get a chance to share "what I'm tyring to say" with so many writer friends.


  1. I came to your blog through the JacketFlap site - and seeing this post made me laugh. Such a sequence of events like that only happen on important days eh?! I've only ever given talks to school children, and the very thought of talking to adults brings me out in a cold sweat! You're incredibly brave!

  2. But see? All those calamities gave The Writer some STORIES to tell. (funny ones, sorry to say, since they're at your expense!)

  3. OK, first off, hotwash is my new favorite word.
    Second, you are a good sport. I think the cords alone might have sent me reeling.
    Third, I wish I had been in your workshop.

  4. Glad to hear it went well. And you kept your cool under pressure... that's a huge accomplishment!

  5. I once locked my keys in my car WHILE it was running - lol. Yep, I was a ditz.

  6. I'm sure it was great, Sara! Wish I could have been there. (And thanks for sharing your misadventures - oh, those dreaded cords...)

  7. What a time you had! I would have cried at the cords fiasco. But as Mary Lee said, you have some fine stories to tell as a result. Definitely NO SOUP for those Apple Store people, or for whoever invented the cords in the first place.

  8. Sounds like fun and games! You have a knack for telling your own story girl. I am intrigued by that 100 question exercise.

  9. I'm glad it was a good experience and that, at least, your keys were in the trunk when you had it opened. One time, I locked my keys in the car while the car was still running.

    Okay, it was more than one time.

    I'm easily distracted.

    I have found a solution to the cord problem when I do presentations: I convince a friend who knows how to deal with cords to worry about it for me. It's not very independent of me, but I worry so, so excessively that something's going to go wrong with the technology that it's really, really nice to have the extra support.

  10. I love that I just learned what "hotwash" means.

    And . . . attagirl!

  11. Hi, Alex! Welcome to the blog. I enjoyed clicking over and reading yours.

    Mary Lee, you are so, so right. The writers I was waiting with were all standing around kidding about the literary magazines who were going to see multiple submissions of stories featuring the locksmith character a few months from now.

    Liz, I wish you'd been there too. You could have helped me with some yoga breathing. And feel free to chant Hotwash! Hotwash! whenever you want. :)

    Thanks, Jennifer and Amy, for the support!

    Barbara, I think I sold at least one teacher on your book after I read aloud from it. She came up to look at it afterwards. Yay!

    Jama, NO SOUP for sure. Although today's experience was much better. The Apple genius WAS a genius and promptly produced the right cord.

    Cloudscome, the 100 questions is really a great, eye-opening writing exercise. If you do it, you'll have to report back what you discover. I'm positive you would have some intriguing questions...

    Adrienne, yes! What a great idea! A designated cord worrier. Why didn't I think of that? Although I did have a student from the university with me, and he was great. He just couldn't make a cord appear from thin air.

  12. Glad to be increasing your vocabulary, Jules. Just think if your two little ones get hold of it.

  13. Have just started "Rapunzel" - it arrived eventually.
    I'm loving it so far. The narrator's voice is very engaging.
    Glad your workshop went well.
    Will report further when I finish the book.
    All best wishes.

  14. Thanks, Elizabeth, Donna. ;)

  15. Hotwash?!? I've learned a new word. I have to admit it's a somewhat disturbing-sounding word, though. It makes me think of hot mouthwash.

    Congrats on your workshops, mishaps and all! And wow--I bet the lock-picking lady makes more people happy in a day than I do in a month! I've actually locked myself out of the house--multiple times, to my embarrassment.


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