Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Praise for Boot Camp

Boot Camp & Alex Keegan

I’m Alexandra Fox (Lexie). I live in a small English village and I spent my life working as a typesetter and sub-editor of scientific journals (and bringing up five children), until I woke up in early 2004 and wrote a story.

I was lucky enough to meet up with Alex Keegan immediately, and joined Boot Camp. I’ve been a full, active Pro member since March 2004. I’ve also attended four Boot Camp Face-to-Face courses and used AKLS (Alex Keegan Literary Services).

I’ve now won 18 first prizes in literary competitions, including Cadenza, Lichfield, Seventh Quark, JBWB, King’s Lynn, Leaf Books, Momaya, Pencil, Peninsular, BBC, First Writer International, Milton Keynes. I’ve also placed or been highly commended in a number of competitions, notably a Supplementary Prize at Bridport 2005 and a runner-up place at Asham, and also including Blackberry Hills USA, SIWC Canada, Shrewsbury, New Writer, Cambrensis, Hastings, Mathew Prichard, Wicklow, Scorched Earth.

I have stories in print at the Momaya Annual Review 2004, Asham Anthology 2005, QWF 45, Ink Pot No. 5, “Happy Families” (Route Publications), Seventh Quark, Aesthetica, “The Greengrocer’s Apostrophe” (Leaf Books). My stories online include: Absinthe Literary Review (story nominated for StorySouth Best of Web 2004), Paumanok Literary Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Flashquake, Eclectica, New Writing Ventures as well as many other ezines.

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Somebody asked me recently why I still need to belong to Boot Camp when I’ve already been published. I need it for the discipline and the deadlines. I need it for the coruscating feedback which keeps my feet firmly on the ground and shows me how far I have to go before I can get anything perfectly right. I need it as a forum to discuss the agonising difficulties of craft and inspiration (it is the only literary education I’ve ever had, and has taught me about point-of-view, theme, show-tell, etc.) I’ll confess I also need it for companionship and friendship with people who are struggling over the same problems, because writing can be a horribly lonely business. Boot Camp is flame-free yet tough and honest, and I’ve always felt safe in being able to argue craft painfully and in depth in front of my fellow-writers.

Alex Keegan is a great teacher. He is forthright, passionate, honest and totally uncompromising. This can come as a shock to writers from other sites who are used to unspecific praise or harsher words wrapped in niceties. He has an enormous depth of knowledge and teaches from the base of being an active (and very good) short-story writer himself, and he puts his own work up anonymously for critique by the group along with everybody else’s. He has always been generous in helping beginners, both in running Boot Camp for many years without payment until his own circumstances forced him to start charging, and in contributing to other writing sites, though shaking people out of complacency is sometimes seen as unwelcome.

Boot Camp Face-to-Face courses are extraordinary experiences, total immersion in talking and thinking about writing, conversations that veer widely and wildly around inspiration, meaning, voice, craft, yet always come back to the focus of how to tell a good, meaningful story as perfectly as we can. Alex runs them in his own home at Kingfisher Barn, looked after beautifully by his wife, and amused but never disturbed by his children, or in wooden chalets in Snowdonia.

Alex always goes the extra mile for his Boot-Campers. He works long hours on the site, seven days a week. In my own case, he’s spoken with editors for me, come along to support me at prize-givings and presentations, helped me through block, craft problems and general flakiness, sometimes late at night. He’s unstintingly supportive to the group, but never to the extent of saying that a piece of bad work is anything other than bad. I’ve found that working in Boot Camp has been an enriching, educating and hugely enjoyable experience which has given me some of the most intense highs and lows of my life. I’m glad to count Alex as a friend whom I hold in the utmost respect as a writer, a tutor and as a person.

[but he still hasn’t taught me how to write a SHORT biog.]

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