A Gathering Of Writers – Redux

As promised, I’m finally getting around to discussing the workshops I attended at Press 53’s “A Gathering of Writers” a couple of weekends ago. Thanks for your patience.

I started the morning off with “The Compelling Story,” presented by Michael Kardos. Kardos teaches creative writing at Mississippi State and is the author of the novel, The Three-Day Affair. Kardos started off by telling us the one thing, the one question we ask ourselves but will never admit: “How do I know if it’s good?” A collective sigh of relief told us we had all, indeed, asked that question. After a brief discussion about understanding when we submit something it’s all about “hitting the right editor on the right day,” Kardos went on to explain our stories have to establish “high stakes”–something which has to matter to the person in the story or which has to be a moment in time in the character’s life most important to him or her.

To help us find the “high stakes,” Kardos gave us the “Motivational Continuum”:

Presentation1We should use the Motivational Continuum for our characters and map out their expectations, hopes, fears, etc. In both the “Fears and Dreads” and the “Hopes and Dreams” sides of the continuum is where we’ll find the characters’ high stakes. “Character desire,” Kardos said, “fuels everything.” Then, he quoted Kurt Vonnegut: “Every character has to want something, even if it’s a glass of water.”

We got other great tidbits–“don’t confine a character to a single place,” “use compressed time periods,” “create suspense,” “withhold information,” among others. Kardos sent us off with a worksheet of exercises, but we all wanted more of his workshop.

Henriette Lazaridis Power was the instructor for “Picking Your Perspective.” Power is the author of The Clover House and editor of the on-line literary magazine, “The Drum,” which is unique in that if she selects your story, you record yourself reading it, and that’s how she publishes it.

After a review of the various perspectives you can take for a particular piece of work (first person singular, first person plural, third person limited, third person omniscient), we did an exercise:

“Two people sit opposite each other in a subway car; one wants to speak to the other but doesn’t. Write that scene.”

We each had to pick a perspective, then write the scene. After a few read theirs aloud, we had to re-write the scene in a different perspective. I started out in first person singular, a POV I only use for very short fiction, then for the re-write I went to what I’m most comfortable with–third person limited. Needless to say, different aspects of character emerged in the two different perspectives. I’ve always found third person frees me up to “say” more than first person POV, and I even found I incorporated some “high stakes” hopes and fears from Kardos’ motivational continuum in the two pieces.

Try this; I think you’ll not only find a POV you’re comfortable with, but you’ll also get out of your comfort zone.

After lunch the next workshop for me was Mary Akers’ “How to Haunt Your Readers,” and not in the supernatural sense. The night before we’d had the launch party for Akers’ most recent collection of short stories, Bones of an Inland Sea. From the reading she gave at the launch party, I knew we were in for a treat in the workshop.

By “haunting,” Akers means things appearing in a written work which continually recur to us; poignant or persistent memories; work that evokes sentimental or enchanting memories; or something you’ve read you just can’t let go. What haunts us is personal, then, and that’s what we have to inscribe in our own writing. “The way to haunt the reader,” Akers said, “is to get to the universal by the personal. If it’s personal to you, it’s personal to the reader.” Moreover, “writing is a brain transfer. You write, but it’s not complete until the reader reads it.”

Then, we had to list five things we’ve read which still haunt us. After a few of us read our lists aloud, we had to go back and find the common theme among the five. My five were:

  • The scene from Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot where a person in the downstairs of a house hears a vampire sucking blood from someone in another part of the house.
  • The climax of W. W. Jacob’s “The Monkey’s Paw,” when there is a knocking at the door of the parents’ house.
  • In Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, the scene where the cabbie horse dies from exhaustion. (This was the first book ever given me as a gift, and my parents almost took it away from me because I cried so much over that scene.)
  • In Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, I’m haunted to this day by anyone knitting after reading how Madame DeFarge kept count of who went to the guillotine.
  • The scene in William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice where Sophie makes her horrendous choice.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the common thread in my list is, well, death. Sheesh.

Then, Akers brought out her bag o’ prompts, and we each selected one to write on for fifteen minutes. And I had a bout of writer’s block at the damnedest time. The prompt, “Write about a time when you were completely unprepared,” did nothing for me. As my kids will attest, I do nothing unprepared. Comes from being a pilot, I suppose, but it was embarrassing.

Still, give the “five things which haunt you” a try. I think you’ll see what’s haunted you will show up in your writing.

The workshop part of the day ended with “Inhabiting Story Through Images of Place,” given by Darlin’ Neal, author of Elegant Punk and Rattlesnakes and the Moon.

After a good discussion and some examples of how to evoke place without coming out and saying “we’re in Podunk,” we got down to a lengthy exercise. Neal called for “tangible objects” from the class, and we gave her thunder, boxes, carpet, a fireplace, and a bed. She then threw in the color orange and told us to write for fifteen minutes and invoke a place using those prompts but without saying where the scene was. I got over the writer’s block pretty quickly and came up with a scene, which I finally had the guts to read aloud. After reading, we each had to state the unasked question about the scene. Then, as the workshop ended, Neal tasked us to go back to that scene in our leisure and write the part which answers the unasked question. Great stuff.

The evening ended with readings from each of the instructors, which can be daunting. Sometimes hearing a published author read can be depressing, but Press 53 managed to bring together a group of completely unpretentious writers. The reading was a delight.

If you’re within easy driving or flying distance of Winston-Salem, NC, consider taking in this one-day conference next year. It’s well worth your time and funds.

In Praise of the One-Day Writers Conference

I’m sure when you think of writers conferences the image you have is a multi-day affair like AWP, Writers Digest, or ThrillerFest. They are great places to go and learn and network, but take AWP, for instance. At AWP Boston this past March, you were one among 12,000. How on earth do you network successfully there? Even the time between panels is compressed, when you have to move that many people in a large convention center. I’m not dissing big conferences or suggesting they’re a waste of time. They aren’t, but they can be overwhelming.

One-day conferences are more intimate, and the opportunities for networking, not just with fellow participants but with faculty as well, are better. The mini-workshops are intensive but because you don’t have to rush across a convention center the size of a city block for your next panel, you can actually stay behind and talk to the instructor or have plenty of time to network.

Press53, an independent press in Winston-Salem, NC, sponsored the second annual “A Gathering of Writers” this past Saturday in Winston-Salem (or “Winston” as the locals call it). The faculty consisted of Press53 authors and/or teachers of writing from universities up and down the east of the country. Press53 limits the number of attendees to 53 on a first-come, first-served basis. As much as I enjoyed A Gathering of Writers last year, somehow Press53 managed to improve upon it. Last year and this year, I came away with more writer-friend connections, and kernels of information on how to enhance my writing. And the cost (under $200) is reasonable. It’s not a case of getting what you pay for but, rather, getting a lot for a little.

A Gathering of Writers offered six workshops then repeated them in the afternoon, and the most you could work into the day was four. It was difficult to choose because all six sounded great. Here are the offerings with the ones I attended in red:

How to Haunt Your Readers, given by Mary Akers
The First Five Pages, given by Marjorie Hudson
The Compelling Story, given by Michael Kardos
Sandbox Game: Writing as Discovery, given by Steve Mitchell
Inhabiting Story Through Images of Place, given by Darlin’ Neal
Picking Your Perspective, given by Henriette Lazaridis Power

After the workshops ended, the faculty each read from their current, published works or works in progress. Throughout A Gathering of Writers, two West Virginia writers, Natalie Sypolt and Renee Nicholson, did live interviews and live-Tweeted for their great podcast, summerbooks. They even interviewed me, and it was one of the most fun interviews I’ve done–sitting around chatting about writing and reading with two other writers and voracious readers.

Later this week, I’ll post about the workshops I attended and why they were so successful–even given my momentary and embarrassing case of writers block.

Tinker Mountain Days Four and Five

The craft lecture on Thursday was by my workshop instructor, Fred Leebron, and was entitled, “Achieving Complexity in Narrative.” Fred had said his workshop didn’t need to attend because we’d already heard it, but most of us did show up. And a good thing, too. The second time around you realize all the things you missed the first time.

Though Fred had some interesting things to say about plot (“Plotting can be a literary straightjacket–it makes you think as if all stories have already been written.”), he emphasized his standard points about how to make your fiction transport the reader into your world and to resonate with the reader, i.e., go on beyond the end and stick with the reader. Fred then described the various ways to create the complexity needed to both transport the reader and have your work resonate with him or her, and it can be anything from judicious line editing, to multiple POVs and narrative arcs, and many more until, he says, “you get to the end of your narrative after exhausting all the possibilities.” Exhausting all the possibilities is the point where you can finally begin to revise.

The craft lecture concluded with an exercise we could take home with us to help with characterization, an exercise designed to develop the “shades” of a character: Describe what the character is most ashamed of, what haunts him/her the most, when he or she came close to doing someone harm, when he or she was the most humane, what he or she wants the most, and what he or she doesn’t want at all. You may never use the answers in a story, but you’ll understand the character better and make him or her layered and complex.

Day Four’s workshop session focused on dialogue and the various ways you can layer time in a story with dialogue, enlarge the cast of characters, and reveal things a character doesn’t know. Tension, important to story structure, can be both created and enhanced by dialogue that contradicts, is passive aggressive, ignores, or even agrees with.

Day Five’s craft lecture was on screen-writing, and I’ll write something on that later. The final day’s workshop session began with a discussion of drafts of our work. “The first draft,” said Fred, “is what the character wants. The final draft is what the reader wants.” I’d never quite thought of it that way, but essentially that is the case.

The rest of the time before the final critique of the week was a free-wheeling Q&A about writing–using substory, flashbacks and flashforwards, when to use dreaming (“economically,” says Fred), and how to give your endings “bite.”

After the last person’s critique, it was time for goodbyes. The week flew by and, for me, is immeasurable in terms of what I learned. Fred Leebron gives you a lot to think about and not just for the five days of the workshop; for the rest of your writing life. I’m already looking forward to next year!

 

Tinker Mountain Day Three

Wait. Day three? Hello, didn’t we just arrive? How can it be Day Three? Rather proves the cliche about time aviating when you’re entertained.

The craft lecture today by Jim McKean was about including suspense in your fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. Perfect for me since 1) I write suspense, and 2) I’m giving a one-evening workshop next week on incorporating suspense into your work. So the “Nine Tricks for Incorporating Suspense” and the “41 Ways to Create and Heighten Suspense” were perfect for me–and not just for the workshop. I’m certain I’ll keep both at hand when I’m writing/revising stories about Mai and Alexei.

Before the critiques started today, Fred Leebron talked about the relationship of the title to the remainder of the work then about Risk = Ambition in novel writing. They are essentially equal, he said, but one also leads to the other in a loop.

Some of the ways you take risks in novel writing are altering the form or structure, using an unusual voice, the content itself, how you use time, and how you treat what’s absent from the novel.

For using an unusual voice, for example, he cited Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. It’s written entirely in second person. Then he had us do an exercise where we took something from our novel excerpt and put it in a voice opposite to what we’d already written. Amazing how that changes perspective and meaning.

When taking a risk, you need to ask yourself if that risk is necessary or gratuitous; a reader rebels against gratuitous risk. In other words, like the inclusion of sex and/or violence, it has to work within the story. Then, our exercise was to identify what risks we had and hadn’t taken with our novels.

Finally, we discussed how to keep our novels from becoming obsolete. For example, how do novels like Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, or Heart of Darkness still resonate today, decades, even a century or more after publication? The writer “got the details right”–in other words, verisimilitude.

Tomorrow’s craft seminar is by my instructor, Fred Leebron, and his subject is “Achieving Complexity in Narrative.” He indicated his students didn’t have to attend, since it will be a summary of what he’s told us the whole week, but I have a feeling we’ll all be there. After workshop, we have our class photo out by the famous campus rock, then open mic night for those who didn’t read on Tuesday night.

And then, it will be almost over.

Tinker Mountain Day Two

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:

Watermelons

Green Buddhas
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.

What’s on Tap – Tinker Mountain Day One

On Sunday evening we had our orientation and meeting with our instructors, after a tasty dinner, dessert, and wine. Yeah, this is my kind of workshop.

One thing is clear: Fred Leebron is going to challenge us in the Advanced Novel workshop, and that’s what we’re here for. Our “homework” is to spend thirty minutes tomorrow morning thinking about the novel project we submitted an excerpt of and to ask ourselves two questions about it: How much is it taking on, and what are we leaving unasked?

All fine and good. I do this sort of thing all the time and make notes. Fred’s twist? We’re to think about it for thirty minutes without writing or making notes. After thirty minutes we can write away. The “thinking” should be about the whole book, not just the excerpt. An interesting concept, and I know it will be hard for me not to pick up a pen for thirty minutes. Oh, and during that thirty minutes–no music, no radio, no internet, no video streaming, just thinking. Oy!

He’s also leaving us wondering about the order in which we’ll be critiqued. Last year I wondered why I was last. This year it’s a different fretting, then–when will I be critiqued. Trust me, there’s always something to fret about.

Tomorrow’s craft seminar features Pinckney Benedict (my instructor from last year), and his topic will be “From Page to Screen,” or taking a story and adapting it for film. In the past year, one of his stories, “Miracle Boy,” was made into a film, so it will be interesting to see how he adapted it.

The actual workshop starts in the afternoon, except again Fred is turning it upside down. No one will be critiqued Monday afternoon. We’ll introduce ourselves, discuss craft, and ask questions. There are seven in this workshop, including yours truly, and an auditor/observer. So, I think the discussions will be lively. It also means I need to get reading everyone else’s manuscript.

This year I couldn’t wait to get here, and I’m excited to get this party, I mean, workshop started.

Gearing Up for Tinker Mountain Redux

By this time next week, I’ll be at my first craft lecture at the Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop. Last year’s experience was the highlight of my fledgling fiction-writing career–twenty pages of a WIP thrown out to eight strangers and an author whose work I admired and which received very positive feedback. But, before that happened, I shook in my Tevas, I was ready to go home the first night, and I had convinced myself I’d made a bad decision. Then, it all turned out completely differently and gave me a confidence boost I’m still surfing.

Of course, being the nervous Nellie I am, I’m already tying my stomach in knots over attending Fred Leebron’s Advanced Novel workshop. I had put in for Beginning Novel, which seemed logical. I have all these unpublished novels in various stages of completion–unpublished being the operative word. Not enough people signed up for Beginning Novel, so I was faced with the choice of re-taking the same workshop from last year (which would be good but there’s nothing like fresh eyes on your work) or not attending Tinker Mountain at all.

After I lamented this on Facebook, a writer friend suggested Leebron’s workshop would be the best option. One glance at Leebron’s bio at Gettysburg College, where he teaches writing, is intimidating, and he’s also a founder and director of TMWW. That’s like taking a constitutional law class from the President, but every writer friend I know who has had Leebron for a workshop has praised him for providing just the right critique.

Okay, gulp. Twenty pages of a different WIP polished and sent off to more strangers and an author whose work I’m not as familiar with–though that will change.

Really, I’m ready to go right now. My head is in the right space for it, and I know in the next week I’ll start that hideous second-guessing I always do and work myself into a tizzy of self-doubt.

I’m a writer; it’s my job to doubt myself.

Reboot

Yesterday was Labor Day, so in solidarity and in gratitude for weekends, minimum wage, health benefits, and many other positive things organized labor has fought and some died for, I took the day off from writing.

Truth be told, since I returned from Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop two months ago, all I’ve been doing is revising, editing, and revising some more. Every time I faced doing something new–including blog posts–I had a lot more trouble getting started than I usually do. The editing and revising I was doing focused on “fixing” the common mistakes I learned about at Tinker Mountain and the other workshops/conferences I’ve attended this year.

I figured it was just me, having a bit of writer’s block. Then, one of my Tinker Mountain classmates e-mailed our group list and asked, “It is just me, or is anyone having trouble writing since the workshop?”

After a little happy dance that I wasn’t alone in this, several other writer friends from the workshop chimed in with the same lament. Then, our ever-wise instructor, Pinckney Benedict, silenced us all. “That’s the purpose of TMWW,” he said. “We push you and challenge you and wring you out so you have to go home and reboot.”

Oh. [Pushes reset button here.]

And, well, that makes perfect sense because what’s the purpose of a workshop if not to alter you in some positive way, especially something as intensive as Tinker Mountain? I think if we hadn’t come away needing to reboot, it would have been a waste of time and money.

I know some writers will find that scary. You’re satisfied with where your writing is, with your skill level; you don’t see how you could be a better writer. I’d counter that with, as with anything that requires skill, you’re in continual learning mode. I’ve had the same concern about pursuing an MFA: What will that do to the voice I’ve developed as a writer?

Yes, I was pretty happy (read complacent) with my writing before Tinker Mountain, but that reboot was exactly what my writing needed. I look at my work with less subjectivity now, and the revising/rewriting post-reboot is producing much better work.

A reboot can feel a lot like a boot in the ass, but, as with a good, swift kick, sometimes you need just that.

A Gathering of Writers

Sorry to take so long to blog about this, but last week was full of events (none writing-related for me; I gave a book party for a friend’s latest book); and I was fighting off a cold. The one-day writers workshop sponsored by Press 53 and Prime Number Magazine in Winston-Salem was a jam-packed day with great instructors and the opportunity to mix and mingle with other writers–one of my favorite things to do.

Press 53 is a small press based in Winston-Salem, NC, and specializes in publishing collections of short stories and poetry. It is also the publisher of Prime Number Magazine, edited by my writer friend, Cliff Garstang. In just seven years of existence, Press 53 is set to release its 100th title some time in October. For the past few years, it has sponsored “A Gathering of Poets.” Prose writers demanded equal time and got it.

As with A Gathering of Poets, the first-ever Gathering of Writers aimed for 53 attendees. The actual count was in the forties, which was promising for a debut. The workshops offered each featured an author published by Press 53 as the instructor, and the topics covered fiction, nonfiction, and publishing. Each instructor gave his or her workshop twice, in the morning and in the afternoon, so you didn’t have to miss one you wanted. As it was, there was time for only four workshops, and six were offered. There’s always next year.

These were the offered workshops:

Creating Immediacy in Fiction, John McNally
Crafting Dialogue that Moves, Valerie Nieman
Going Vertical in Memoir: How to Move your Creative Nonfiction from Slush Pile to Publication Success, Tracy Crow
Creating the World in a Short Story, Clifford Garstang
Scene Construction: Building a Scene Layer by Layer, Susan Woodring
Your Path to Publication, Kim Wright

I signed up for McNally, Nieman, Garstang, and Wright’s workshops.

McNally provided a handout, “20 Things that Lessen Immediacy,” and went over each. Rather sobering to read through the list and see just how many of the 20 “offenses” I’m guilty of, but no more. Very eye-opening and enlightening but practical as well.

Nieman used screenplay excerpts to demonstrate how dialogue in a non-screenplay should read, but the fun part was these were movies we were all familiar with; and workshop participants got to “act out” the dialogue by reading it aloud. Then, we had a short dialogue exercise to write based on a prompt. The prompt was a snippet of a real conversation Nieman had overheard. A lot of fun and very helpful.

Wright, who has been published by a Big Six press, a small press, and self-published gave us the pro’s and con’s of each type of publishing. It was refreshing to hear someone be honest about each type, rather than being all rah-rah Big Six and boo self-publishing. Wright was careful to balance the presentation without showing any favoritism for one form or the other, but she was able to provide good information to help you choose which version might be appropriate for your work. We ended with an exercise where we paired up and described our current works to each other; then, the other person had to give an elevator pitch of your work. Also great fun and showed us just what is important for an effective pitch.

Garstang’s workshop I had seen bits and pieces of before, but as a whole it was a workshop that offered just the practical information with very little fluff. Key to the presentation: Write what you don’t know from the basis of what you do know, and show AND tell. Of course, it was more in-depth that than, and Garstang provided specific references from other writers’ works to illustrate his points. And we left not only with a reading list but suggested exercises as well.

Between the workshops and at lunch, we all had the opportunity to meet each other and discuss writing. I could do that all day, every day. I came away with new Facebook friends, and after listening to those new friends talk about which literary magazines had recently published them, I realized I hadn’t been living up to my resolution to submit more work. Though that wasn’t really a workshop, it was an example to inspire me.

Sometimes the first of anything can be disappointing, but not this–well organized, well produced, and worth every dime spent. I can’t wait until next year’s Gathering of Writers.

 

 

Tinker Mountain – Day Three

Yet another cool thing about Tinker Mountain is the fact that while a bunch of us are here learning to be better writers, a whole bunch more are here learning to be better ceramicists. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of artists, as we found out last night at my dorm (Sandusky–yes, a little creepy) where the writers number only two. There might have been wine involved–I say might, in case, well, having wine on campus is a no-no.

But it was a great discussion of creative process–the ceramicists thought they were the only ones who worked alone and inside their heads. We were more alike than any of us thought.

Today’s craft seminar was “Looking at You–Notes on the Second Person, its Pleasures, Risks, and Surprises,” conducted by poet Thorpe Moeckel. A more laid-back presenter, Moeckel was just as engaging as Benedict and McKean, and his love of poetry was obvious in the selections we read to illustrate the premise of the lecture. Some I knew well, like “When You Are Old,” by W. B. Yeats, and “Letter to Simic from Boulder,” by Richard Hugo. Others were new gems for me to behold: “Visit” by A. R. Ammons, “Merengue,” by Mary Ruefle, and “Directions,” by Michael McFee.

I left the craft lecture wanting to delve more into poetry–and how to write it–and ready to experiment some more with second person.

Even though I know I’ve heard this before, somehow when Pinckey Benedict uses David Mamet to teach about what a scene should do, it sticks harder and longer. According to Mamet, a scene–whether for a television program, movie, novel, or story–should establish who wants what, what happens if the person doesn’t get what he/she wants, and why now. Once you’ve established that and written the scene, you have to ask yourself: Is it dramatic? Is it essential? Does it advance the plot? Then, you have to answer truthfully. If the scene isn’t dramatic or essential and it doesn’t advance the plot, out it goes.

Easy, right? Apparently not, because we were all slapping our foreheads and saying, “Duh!” (To see in detail what David Mamet has to say, Google “David Mamet Memo,” and you should get the memo he wrote to his staff of writers on the TV show, “The Unit.” Great stuff.) To get us in the habit of this, Benedict instructed us to try an experiment: stop writing anything expository for a while, make sure every sentence shows someone doing something, start with action, and once something has been accomplished, end it.

We had great fun in the workshop reading aloud a homework assignment. We had to write down a real dream then a fake dream. After we read both to the class, the others had to guess which was which–and justify why we voted that way. We’ve all come to know each other pretty well, but it was still difficult to decide which was the dream and which is real. Pinckney joked that this workshop might be the dream we all wake up from–if that’s so, let me sleep.

Homework for tomorrow: write an event that happened to you and one that didn’t; write a short bio where one thing is not true; and write the worst opening to a novel or story there ever was.

I haven’t looked forward to homework in a very long time.