Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

I just wanted to make a short post plugging a new blog where I am a contributor. It’s called The MFA Chronicles and it follow 15 some MFA students through our first year of our respective programs. I’m really excited to be a part of all these cool kids. We’re hoping that it will be useful to people who are thinking about the MFA in creative writing, not to mention be a huge opportunity to interact with other emerging writers.

On a personal note, I feel like I’m in some sort of secret club. Well, it’s not so secret obviously, since there’s a very public blog about it on the internet! *sniff* I’ve always wanted to be a cool kid!


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I feel like I’m learning how to read again. Since I’ve become an English major, books have become a strange way of life. Of course, reading and literature has always had a huge space in my life, but now, as a student of words and paragraphs and metaphors, they have become this unsciencey-science. Books are a sort of sterile mess that I have to sort through, siphon in and then suck back out again in intro-body-conclusion form. Somewhere along this glorious road of a BA in English, I’ve lost the simple pleasure and curiosity that is inherent in sitting down and reading.

It’s spring break for me and I am about 1/4 of the way into Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins. It was given to me as a gift and I couldn’t be more grateful. It’s a dense novel (though short at only 277 pages) centering around an exiled princess of a nondescript kingdom named Leigh-Cheri. Living in “the last quarter of the twentieth century”, Leigh-Cheri is a young woman itching to make a difference in the world. Until she meets Woodpecker, a serial bomber and makeshift philosopher.

This story has a thickness that seems impenetrable, but not in a Foucault sort of way (did I just make the comparison? Someone kill me before I get even MORE pretentious). I’ve been reading on and off since Thursday and I am only on page 83. A better word is rich. Robbins folds in surprising little details that shock and amaze, but he walks away from them as if the little explosion on the page was nothing compared to the blast that will come. He definitely commits to his style of multi-layer adjectives and descriptions. In a strange way, each word seems to build from one to another until the bubble bursts and a bold, type-writer script number and decorative filigree signal the next chapter. In fact, each little chapter could function as a short story. A confusing short story, but a short story nonetheless.

I couldn’t have asked for a better book to usher my return to contemporary literature as a mere observer, instead of a unsciencey-scientist, with my stethoscope to check the narrative’s respiration a and centrifuge to mix in my own interpretation. It lifts me out of my English major consciousness. I can’t wrangle this bull. I just have to watch it buck around the ring for awhile.

Lately, I’ve been having many, many problems getting back into a a nice niche of fiction writing. I can’t say it’s writer’s block, really. No, I can write. It’s just horrible and dry. This does not happen in my scripts or nonfiction. Those pursuits are alive and well. It’s just this fiction that gives me fits until I want to rip out every one of my eyelashes and press the backspace button until everything is erased and gone.

Woodpecker might just be the salve I need. See, I think my problem is that after a while, my vision gets blurry. And by vision, I mean my writerly vision. Or as my Indian professor would say, “wision”. I lose track of where my story is going. I drag everything behind me like a criminal’s body through cobblestone streets. I just need to let things roll. Do some push ups. Turn some cartwheels. Shake it like a Polaroid picture. And most importantly, I need to be less critical.

Annie Dillard has an amazing point in what I like to call her writing textbook, The Writing Life. She, in a less trite way, say that your audience for your books should be the terminally ill. You can’t waste their time with a story that is not your best. Don’t put it away for another day when you’re “better” or less busy. Do it now. Work.

Tomorrow, I am devoting the day to writing and reading. At night, when my eyes are tired, I’ll sew. But in the afternoon, I am going to sit in a chair and write until I don’t want to pluck my eyelashes out. Because someday, I’m going to be terminally ill, and I don’t want there to be ink still left in my pen.

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I’ve always had the old adage, “write what you know” stuffed into my face. Or, those grating people who say “Ooh, do I have a story for you!” Of course, the stories are rarely all that fantastic and never match up with my own personal vision. Which brings to one of the reasons why I love writing: Everyone has a story. Everyone. It’s all in the matter of telling , getting it out.

The 2007 movie Waitress is one of those little, quiet, personal stories. The movie focuses on unhappily married, pregnant waitress, master pie baker Jenna. For many months now she’s been quietly planning her escape from her smothering husband…until she discovers the unplanned pregnancy.

Sounds like every little misguided and sad woman, doesn’t it? Well, the writer and director, Adrienne Shelley (who was unfortunately murdered before her movie premiered), made sure it wasn’t. The little nuances (the song Jenna’s mother sang to her, her unlikely friendship with the owner of the diner, played by Andy Griffith, the little, extremely personal letters she wrote to her developing baby) created something so real, so credible, it might as well have been nonfiction.

In a way, it was. Just as one of the archetypal characters is “everyman” Jenna is everywoman. She embodies the hope for a better life, a good life, we all strive for, the ever illusive American Dream. She represents that, yes, there is still a gender gap, whether we all want to admit it or not. And it was all done without being preachy. There was no soap box. Only the journey of a young woman in search of something better.

No, Waitress isn’t a masterpiece, but it is a quiet, beautiful, fun little movie. I highly recommend it to all who want to send a cold afternoon in with a warm story. While your at it, think about your own story. It doesn’t have to reflect your life’s events. But I truly believe that all fiction holds within some aspect of the author’s truth.

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