Thorpe Moeckel makes me wish I were a poet. His craft lecture, “Food and Drink in Poetry: The Techniques, Trappings, and Themes,” was, pun intended, a feast of delicious poems he used to illustrate his point; namely, that the necessity of food and drink to life makes them elementals. The act of eating and drinking is sensory, a particularly good ingredient for writing of any kind.
Moeckel imagines the first poets were proto-humans who sat around a campfire chanting about their basic needs–sustenance, warmth, and mates. When we see our work on a page, he says, think of it as food on a plate. That distances you from the work and lets you begin to revise.
Many of my fellow prose writers skipped this craft lecture, and I say, “Shame on you!” It well worth the time and the reading of the poems he used as examples. My favorite was this one, by Charles Simic:
on the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
and spit out the teeth.
The afternoon, of course, was day two of the Advanced Novel workshop, and my novel excerpt was up for critique at the end of the day. Fred Leebron started it off with a brief overview of finding an agent and preparing the right sort of query letter. Then, he went over some hints about how to submit a successful manuscript–formatting, for example–then things to do to make an editor “love your book for two years,” the approximate length of the publishing cycle. Keep at it, he advised. “If you give up, nothing will happen, so you can’t give up.”
Then came the critiques. Again, this was a civilized process, which provided positive feedback. I’m still at the level of confidence where someone who likes or praises my writing leaves me in a state of wonder. When a well-known teacher of writing compares your excerpt to Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street or Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, holy crap, you must be doing something right.
The one-on-one conference afterwards gave me good direction and a plan to pursue, and it wasn’t exactly what I had already planned; but it’s where I need to go.
Tonight was student open-mic night, and I read “Marakata,” my short story which won third place in WriterHouse’s contest back in May. It was very well-received, and I got some suggestions on where to submit it for possible publication.
Jim McKean will give tomorrow’s craft lecture, entitled, “Suspense?”–a timely topic since I’m teaching a one-night, online workshop next week about including suspense in your fiction. Then, two more critiques of other classmates’ excerpts. It’s hard to believe as of tomorrow we’ll be on the downward slide.