It’s fort season.
A few days ago, Dear Daughter had a friend over to spend the night. When I walked in the next morning, I couldn’t find them or the floor. Blankets stretched from her bed to the four corners. Books precariously held the blankets in place from their stations on her vanity, chair and night stand. DD is almost fourteen (Guess what happens in seven days, Mom?) and has apparently not outgrown the magic of an impromptu fort.
Taking a cue, and a table, from big sis, the littles turned their bedroom into a fort. Last night they both slept under their beds, which were connected by a series of blankets and books, night stands and card tables.
It is fort season, indeed.
I understand the joy of forts. It wasn’t so long ago I constructed them myself with my sister. They are secret and safe and adventurous. They turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Secrets are whispered, promises made and friendships solidified. The world’s problems are always solved within the confines of these fabric walls.
At least until the books come crashing down and we are left under a tangle of blankets. In that one fatal moment, it seems as if the magic never happened.
Over the years I’ve had several writing forts. Critique groups can be invaluable to any writer, no matter how inexperienced or advanced they may be in the craft. They also vary as widely as the blankets kids use to create their clandestine worlds.
But, not all forts are happy, safe and productive places. Some members can be bitter. Some are unmotivated. Some want to socialize, while others want the nitty-gritty. Some cry at the drop of a hat (not me this time, I promise). Inevitably, somebody stands up or waves their arms in a way that knocks the books off the night stand and we are left with a disgusting pile of rubble and a mess to clean up.
The side-effects can be disasterous when this happens. Writers return to their closets and vow never to never share their work again. They fear their writing is no longer valid. They may even turn in their laptops and notepads. They can become bitter and distrustful and a harsher critic should they ever erect another writing fort.
So, dear friends, in your vast and varied experiences, what are the rules of your writing forts? What works and what doesn’t? How often do you exchange passages, how much and how? Who do you share your secret handshake and password with? What tips have you learned along the way to help other writers succeed in creating the best fort of the season?