Please meet me in Bates 203A. Bring all of your portfolio materials and three specific questions to direct our conference.
Monday, December 2:
1:30 Tom A.
1:50 Erica F.
2:10 Chris L.
2:30 Jake S.
2:50 John L.
3:10 Alleena J.
3:30 Chris D.
Wednesday, December 4:
12:30 Kristen B.
12:50 Adam G.
1:10 Stefen W.
1:30 Stephanie A.
1:50 Sierra B.
2:10 Chris M.
2:30 Pavel C.
Not all of these are about writing. Not all are manifestos. But all proclaim a passionate view on life, on art, on writing, on fill-in-the-blank. These are your models.
Daring to Live Fully’s Manifesto + guide on writing your own.
You might have guessed that 13 is my lucky number. If not, now you know.
In honor of my lucky number, Creative Assignment 13 requires that you first read Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird“. Go on. I’ll wait here while you read.
Next I’ll ask that you mash poetry and creative non-fiction together. Blur some boundaries and write your own version: “Thirteen Ways of Looking at ___” Fill in the blank with your name.
Write short stanzas, 13 brief prose pieces…whatever works. Surprise the reader with strong imagery and meaningful moments.
In other homework, we’ll workshop pieces from Sierra, Chris L., and Alleena on Wednesday and discuss “Bigfoot Stole My Wife” (complete a RRWS).
Creative Assignment 12 is due on Monday, November 18. You should also read Atwood’s “The Female Body” and complete an RRWS. Be sure to read the post below about comments on comments and be generous with your workshop feedback.
I’m going to impose a first and last line on you. Your task is to write a 2-4 page scene that logically (even if there is magic involved!) works. You must have two characters, dialog, setting details, and employ a first-person point of view. Aim for narrative tension and surprising imagery.
First line: All this happened, more or less. (after Kurt Vonnegut)
Last line: The eyes and faces all turned themselves towards me, and guiding myself by them, as by a magical thread, I stepped into the room. (after Sylvia Plath)
After reviewing your most recent workshop comments, I thought it would be useful to urge you to add a bit more to your feedback. Here are my ideas:
1. Remember to read the piece twice. Once for content–just so you get a sense of what the piece is trying to achieve; next with a more critical eye, pen(cil) in hand to identify what is working, what surprised/delighted you, where you craved more development.
2. You do not need to identify low-order concerns, which includes grammar and spelling. Especially, please refrain from pointing out such concerns in the workshop; our time is limited, and it’s more important that we describe our reading experience and share our ideas about the craft of the piece.
3. In your written feedback comments, use the language Burroway and our RRWS has given you–workshop is its own discourse community, and if we are to enter it fully, we have to practice using the language. Focus on such things as setting, the point of view, reliable/unreliable narrators, sound work, imagery.
4. Write your feedback comments before coming to class. If the workshop sparks something that has you knocking on your desk like a woodpecker, add it to the comment you’ve already written!
5. Let’s start moving away from “I admire” (our substitute for “I like/love”) to “here’s what I see working in the piece. Our next moves, then, are going to be less about our personal reaction to the piece (although it’s appropriate to share that in your note to the author) and more about describing what the piece is achieving. It’s a shift in thinking, I know, and I’m here to help you make that shift!
Write a 25-line memoir. Begin “If it were not for ___________, I would not be here.”
Mine, for instance, might begin “If it were not for my father’s blue eyes, I would not be here.” Or maybe “If it were not for Albuterol, I would not be here.” Or even “If it were not for my husband’s first wife, I would not be here.” In each case, the here is a different aspect of my life. Write at least five first lines, filling in the blank, before you write your 25-line memoir that opens up the first line.
On Wednesday, November 13, writer Cari Luna will join us (virtually) to read from her novel and to answer questions about it and the writing life.
Cari Luna received an MFA in Fiction from Brooklyn College. Her debut novel, The Revolution of Every Day, was published by Tin House Books. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, their two children, a cat, and four chickens.
First, thank you all for your kind comments to Jake in today’s workshop. It’s hard to avoid “like” in such conversations, and I appreciated the efforts you made!
Next, for the people up for workshop who have to write the longer type-written letter, here are two models (in one document). Both work at providing descriptive feedback, which really helps the writer see where she is succeeding and where she may need to develop the work. Let me know if you have questions.
As you write your letter to your peer, consider using this approach:
1. Describe the story using prompts from the RRWS–what is the structure? What can you say about the point of view? The narrator?
2. What do you envy and why? Go into detail. What makes the envy so sharp? What is working in this piece?
3. What gaps do you see? How can you help the writer brainstorm ideas for attending to the gaps?
4. What does the language (words, sentences, images) do to develop the story? Where are there unclear moments? Where does the language shine?
And now, Creative Assignment 10, which is due on Wednesday: think about a character you love from one of your favorite works of fiction (yes, a movie is fine if you can’t find someone from a novel). Elizabeth Bennett, Daenerys Targaryn, Harry Potter, Odysseus–your call. Now imagine that character writing advice to his/her child, to be read at age 22. Write a list poem in which you focus on sound (not rhyme, but consonance, assonance) and convey that advice. You might want to employ a refrain like “you’d better make sure…”
For this Creative Assignment, start by reading Sharon Olds’s “The Language of the Brag.” Next, write your own brag, per Try This 10.16, p. 317. This will be a list poem. As Burroway suggests, find a refrain (other than “I have wanted” and use it to introduce each of the pieces of your brag.