Thursday, July 16, 2009


Quick - quick - quick! 15 minutes of free time to write up something for you:

The Grad Assistants read their work today - well-done to them. Stephanie Greene's reading produced quite a bit of laughter. The scholarship winners also read - wow, beautiful work by Daphne Kalmar for a critical thesis about the linked short story cycle - I intend to sit down with a full copy of it, and I recommend you do the same. It's exciting, and even if you're not writing short stories/story cycles, it's worth reading for what it says about allowing your reader to make meaning, to do the work & fill in the gaps. Daphne, who used her science quite a lot in her classroom, brought lovely science metaphors (about creatures in the deep ocean) into her critical writing - quite brilliant!

ALUMNI ARRIVING! MORE HUGGING! MORE DELIGHT! Sarah Aronson and Mary Atkinson have gathered up quite an array of editors and agents for the Alumni Residency, which overlaps with ours, and we all maxed out on pizza tonight up in the Faculty Lounge. And I got to see baby pictures of Mary's granddaughter, Julia, now five-months old. Mary and I are smitten with our grandchildren.

WONDERFUL READING TONIGHT BY MARGO LANAGAN who is down to earth, very funny, and not at all flummoxed by the widely disparate reactions to TENDER MORSELS (why do I always type "Tender Mercies" and then think, "No, that's not right...."?) I know we will look back and remember what an honor it was to have her with us. She was invited originally to join us for Good & Evil Day on Saturday, but she didn't think she would be coming to the U.S. this summer and had to decline. As it turns out, she came to ALA to pick up her award, so she flew over from Chicago to join us today and tomorrow. Wish we could keep her here longer.....

Beginning notes about Alan's lecture WHAT MAKES A GOOD STORY? A PERSONAL INQUIRY
Bottom line: It completely amazed me. So heartfelt, and such good advice for any writer: 1) Tell a story with interesting characters 2) in a compelling situation; 3) where a choice is made; 4) tell it with heart 5) in an original and economical (no words wasted) voice 6) and make all the elements work together 7) to produce a story that feels effortless, and 8) where you leave room for the reader to make meaning. Oh, my god - that's a beautiful list, and nearly impossible to achieve. But a goal to hold out in front of ourselves, certainly - and the example Alan used, to show us how a story can work, sounds, though I haven't read it yet,- a story called "In the Fall" by Alistair McLeod, taken from a "slim volume" (aren't those lovely words?) of his short stories called THE LOST SALT: GIFT OF BLOOD. Must get this from the library and read it. favorite quotation from Alan's lecture: "If you don't staple your reader to the page, your reader will put your book down, go into the kitchen and make a cheese sandwich." I predict that "Cheese Sandwich Moment" enters the VCFA lexicon very quickly.

More tomorrow, when I find another 15 minutes. It's after midnight, and I'm turning into a pumpkin. Oh, gosh, how will I find time to do a load of laundry?

1 comment:

  1. Julie -- I ended up packing enough for two weeks just so that I didn't have to take time off from the Winter Rez for laundry. Who has time for laundry? There's too much to do and see and absorb and the Rez is too short, to waste precious time on laundry.

    Miss you-all, WendieO