Thursday, February 26, 2009

Workshop (edited post)

Well, that went well.

That went shockingly well.

So well that twelve hours later I still find it hard to believe. So well that I wonder if I didn't get cheated somehow.

Usually for workshop we submit one piece of fiction (7-30 double spaced pages of prose) to the class by email 72 hours before the class takes place. This week, I submitted two pieces roughly 48 hours before workshop. Oops.

No, not "oops." I meant to do it. I just meant to do it earlier.

One piece was 550 words of flash fiction and the other was 13 pages of a nonfiction essay.

For the nonfiction piece, I really expected to take slack for a "sentimental" ending. I loved the ending even though I did see it's sentimentality -- but then again I cry at Kodak commercials. But it didn't happen. People loved the ending because it tied back in to the opening. Gah. Who knew?

The reception for the piece of nonfiction was generally warm although it wasn't unanimously so. I could tell from oral comments and written ones handed back to me that at least one person totally did not get it. Then again that person read it as a fiction story instead of a nonfiction essay which is a different form. [Essays can go on rambling, summary style tangents and get away with it instead of needing to express all information through scene. Other formats of creative nonfiction try to be entirely in scene.] I believe the warm reception was due to the humor and the fact that the instructor was fairly vocal in her approval.

What was really intriguing was the response to my piece of flash fiction. I didn't think that we would even talk about it but that's what we started off the night with. I had specifically asked for help with punctuation. At the beginning of discussion I explained why the punctuation was an issue: this was my alphabet exercise. Because the first sentence had to start with "A" the second with "B" and so on, the punctuation got sticky ... and then there was a required 100 word sentence which had even more inventive punctuation. I had edited the original piece to move it away from its aleatory origins (just learned what "aleatory" meant last night) but I was fairly certain some of the constructions I had made to fit the rules were making the piece awkward.

Having twelve pairs of fresh eyes look at it without knowing the exercise beforehand was awesome! However, once they did know the rules they were hunting through the entire piece looking for the remnants of the alphabet. Writers: always curious about words. But that hunting was also helpful. It made them think about why certain words were there and if they were still working (usually they weren't). All in all, it was amusing to see them sniff out the "alphabet words." Is 'verbalize' a remnant? What about 'quixotic'? 'Reciprocal?'

After workshop I went out to the bar with several of the other writers then came back home to edit the piece of flash fiction and submit it to the Kenyon Review "under 30" short fiction contest. I'm not going to lie when I say that submitting that piece to workshop this month had everything to do with wanting help getting it ready for this specific contest.

Highly Recommended