Tagged with erica dawson

Final residency—Days 1 and 2

Day 1

In a near-replay of last January’s travel difficulties, I arrived at the hotel at 4a. Despite a mere three hours of sleep, I managed to make it to the opening session on time and even have a bit of prep time in the morning.

After the initial orientation, we had a breakdown by cohort with those of us in our final residency learning about life after the MFA from Erica Dawson and Jessica Anthony. 

Our first seminar of the day was David Kirby talking about book reviewing. He views this as a great opportunity for writers since, “Nobody wants to do book reviews.” He advises using clips of previous reviews as a means to work your way up the food chain from indie publications to paid reviewing. The latter doesn’t necessarily pay a lot, but $350–600 for a review is typical.

David Kirby

He went on to look at structural aspects of book reviews using a few reviews he had written for The New York Times and The Washington Post to illustrate his points.

The reading for the day took place early and featured Kirby and his wife Barbara Hamby each reading from their poetry.

We then adjourned to the hotel for the pool party and barbecue. There was a threat of lightning storms so the barbecue ended up being burgers and hot dogs served from steam trays in the hotel ballroom. The rain held off so we ended up mostly standing around near the pool although some of our number had brought their suits and actually entered the pool.

Day 2

Kevin Moffet

The day opened with a genre workshop from Josip Novakovich. Those of us in our final term had some open time while the others had their small group workshops. 

After lunch, Barbara Hamby talked about writing across genres, although like so many people, the question of how do you know whether something is a poem or a story was not really answered satisfactorily.

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We then had the first round of graduate student readings (I’m on tomorrow), some mighty fine stuff there.

The evening readings were Kevin Moffett and Tony D’Souza. Kevin had a reading consisting of three monologues from The Silent History and he employed MFA students Kat Grilli and Benjamin Tier to perform two of them. Their theatrics actually made for some of the better readings and I look forward to hearing them read their own work later in the residency.

Tony read from an article he recently published about his last trip to Côte d’Ivoire.

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Residency day 6

Our morning seminar was Jason Ockert on writing idiosyncratic characters. How does one go about moving a reader? Balance between writing familiar and IMG 0275 distinctive. That which is relatable and that which is somehow unfamiliar. Who cares about idiosyncratic characters? For Ockert it’s rudimentary. He has a terrible memory: the great thing about literature is the stuff he can’t forget. Distinctive things are easiest to remember.

He gave us a writing exercise: Cards with phobias on them from which we were to write a character without necessarily employing the name of the phobia directly. On the whiteboard, Ockert summarized his talk as:

1. Good writing is capable of moving the reader

2. Write what will be remembered

3. The writer should concern him/herself with writing that is both familiar and distinctive.

4. Character quirks exist everywhere because we live in a weird fucking world.

5. Treat your strange characters with kindness. 

We continued with workshops and then I attended student seminars from Nicholas Halley and Ryan McConkey. Our final seminar of the day was a rerun of Enid Shomer’s seminar from last January.

The evening’s readings were Erica Dawson and Alan Michael Parker.

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Residency day 2

This was really the first real day of the residency. I’ve decided to not to continue with Tampa Review Online, so I had some open time in the morning which I dedicated to some last-minute critique work. And thence to the first workshop session. No details about the work, but Tibor follows the Iowa format in which the author remains silent until the end of the discussion of her work. We also had an interesting discussion about some of the financial and logistical aspects of the writing life (agents, publishers, being the lead title, etc.)

After lunch, we had the first of the genre workshops. In fiction, with Jason Ockert, Jessica Anthony and Maile Chapman, we talked about genre as in sci-fi/romance/vampires/etc. The discovery of “Bonnet Romance” by some workshop participants sparked a bit of mirth and curiosity.

One of our exercises was looking closely at the openings of The DaVinci Code (as an example of bad writing) and Carrie (as an example of good writing, although I wonder whether some of the humor there was unintentional).

We also managed to get the great quote from Jason, “We wait for the sex, we wait for the elves.”

The afternoon seminar was another visit to the book arts studio, although I managed to instead space out during my opportunity to see paste paper made while watching part of a documentary on the Linotype machine. I’ve been thinking about writing something about the Linotype getting into some of the design choices that it forced on the type designers as well as talking about the mechanics of the great beast. As much as I saw of the documentary focused on the mechanics and seemed to gloss over the aesthetic limitations of the machine.

The evening readings were from Erika Dawson, who read a few of her poems, and Karen Russell, who read an extended excerpt from Swamplandia! Given that we looked at a different excerpt from Swamplandia! in the last residency, if I don’t get around to reading this book, I might end up having the whole thing read to me by the time I finish my MFA.

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Residency day 8

We’re beginning to draw to a close. The schedule is starting to open up a bit. The morning seminar was Roy Peter Clark and Tom French from the Poynter Institute talking about the importance of sequencing in writing. They offered up what might be called the 2-3-1 formula, where the most important thing comes at the end, the second most important at the beginning and the least important in the middle, an idea which scales from the sentence to the paragraph to the section to the work. I can see it being a useful technique in my writing, although at the same time, too slavish a devotion to it could get a bit wearying.

In our morning workshop, we finished the last of the student works, leaving me a bit curious about what we’ll do tomorrow. If past experience is any guide, it will be writing exercises.

The afternoon slot was filled with a second synthesis session, where we largely focused on feedback about the sessions.

I had some free time after that since my final contract consult session will be tomorrow. I went back to the hotel and did some writing and reading. I had planned on walking to Ybor City where the evening’s reading was going to take place, but found myself faced with a monsoon. I ended up getting a ride with another student.

The reading featured Erika Dawson, Therese Svoboda, and Peter Meinke from our faculty along with three outside writers. Of those three, only one caught my attention, but holy cow, it was good stuff. This writer, Michael Angelo Rumore is someone to watch. I expect to see great things from him.

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