Week 2: The Week of Dead Roman
The schedule led us to expect Jeff Vandermeer, accompanied by his wife Ann. What we got was a bonus: Jeff-and-Ann-Vandermeer. Greg had told us that Jeff would read our stories. He had. Every single one of them. Our submission stories. And everything we had written since. So had Ann.
Soon after he arrived, Jeff assigned the Roman story: We were to write, for a Saturday deadline, a 5,000 word story with a structured plot, and four characters: Gustav, a furniture mover; Antonio, his unemployed younger brother; Joanna, Gustav's girlfriend, and Roman, a mysterious man who moves into the same building. Gustav kills Roman, and after that, they find out his secret. Don't discuss it among yourselves, Jeff said. Do the assignment, Ann said, you'll be happy you did. The class took it seriously. Roman must die, Julie declared. On 19 computers, Gustav killed Roman, with 19 different secrets revealed afterward. The tenements in which they lived were in
On Friday night, with a 10 a.m. Saturday deadline, a headcount started. Someone drew a memorial in chalk in the courtyard, and each time a Roman died, a Dead Roman was added with the initials of the author. Eventually, an array of 19 heads and a chalk corpse outline indicated the project was over.
There was a Water War. Ann and Jeff joined the combat with enthusiasm. Betsy appeared on wheels, a stunning modern Valkyrie. Desirina looked elegant and deceptively innocent, quick on the draw. Drew stayed out of the battle and watched from the window above.
There was a reading at Mysterious Galaxy.
For Jeff's birthday, Shweta, assisted by a few midnight Clarionites, made a huge chalk-art picture of Scream.
A free-writing exercise resulted in the most unusual imagery, some of which later became stories. The hero of that exercise was a frog named Theodore. We’re rooting for Andrew to develop this character.
While I’m doing special mentions: Jerome. He took the lead in some of the nice things we did; he was the Master of the Cards – Birthdays, Thank yous. He rounded up signatures for anything that needed signing by us all. He fostered a sense of appreciation for what we had. He set up Café Jerome in the living room of their apartment. And who can forget the Holy Readings from Brother Jerome in the last two weeks of the session?
Jerome found the perfect thanks-and-farewell poster with twenty squares on it, each by a different artist with quotes about art. And then Week 2 was over, and Jeff-and-Ann gave way to Karen Joy Fowler.