Thursday, August 14, 2008

Not a Bad Wednesday ... Scratch That. A Good Wednesday

Project Runway totally sent the wrong designer home. The whiny boy who keeps talking about how he has such impeccable taste (but doesn't) really needs to go home. He should have left last week and the fact that he's still around is more a testament to dumb luck than his skill. My father says the guy is still around because the producers think he makes good TV. But this kid is just whiny ... that's not drama, that's annoying.

Segue. Yesterday was a good day for me as a writer. I worked on a short story that I had begun at the Kenyon Workshop and realized that I'm a lot closer to having a finished first draft than I thought I was. Yea!

The story started off as a prompt from a picture of a woman walking in the desert. I've been jotting down notes on it then and again, thinking about the characters for two months now but I haven't been able to get back into it long enough to work on the story as a whole until yesterday.

The story is going to end up being a lot shorter than I thought it would. 2000 words isn't a terribly long story, but the style of this one is very brief, pared down, even. Then again I think my stories always surprise me with their length because they going from being all these pieces and scraps of fabric to being knit into one another, just one piece instead of taking up my entire workbench.

Length aside, I'm just excited that I'll have something to take to workshop now!

One of my goals for the summer was to have two new pieces of short fiction that were at a point that I could take them in to workshop. As someone who likes to write beginning drafts that skip around and don't always connect with the thought before, getting a draft to the point where someone else can read it and think it coherent is an accomplishment. I also hate workshopping stories that are honestly "first drafts." I want as much time to edit as possible so that I don't embarrass myself.

At this point I only have the one story finished, not the two. But I'll take one over none! And who knows, I might not use it at all this semester. It depends on how the workshop class is structured, I might not get the opportunity. One way or another, it is a good feeling to walk in with a back up -- one that isn't from my application packet!

I've heard tell of that practice as well: that sometimes when first year MFA candidates feel overwhelmed by grad school or stuck in a writing rut, they pull the writing sample from their application packet and bring it to workshop. That practice has it's pros and cons. Perhaps you've never gotten a chance to workshop the pieces you sent in with the application and you now have the opportunity to have knowledgeable people give feedback. Okay I can see that one. But where you're shooting yourself in the foot is that you're not using the time to write anything new. (Although you could counter that argument by actually writing just not bringing it to class.) An MFA is nothing if not time to write with deadlines to push you forward -- or so everyone keeps telling me. It's also an opportunity to learn and apply those skills to writing immediately. And you also have to consider the fact that your professor might have been on the application committee and, as I've discovered through impromptu phone conversations, they remember these stories.

I just wanted to walk in with a short story in hand just in case. In case I want or need to go first. In case I get stuck or swamped or pressed for time. And after seeing that it took me two months to go from original concept to a draft I'd be willing to let someone else read, I might just need a back up.

One last bit of great news: I got a copy of Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg yesterday! I was in love with the book after only reading the preface and introduction. I'm tempted to read the whole thing in one sitting but I know that's not a very helpful way of consuming a book on writing.

Highly Recommended