Tagged with jason ockert

Final Residency—Day 3

We began the day with another fiction workshop, this time led by Jessica Anthony, who answered the question of how do we compete with all the multitudinous inputs of contemporary life? Her answer: Surrealism!

We did a few surrealist exercises: First was the two minute conversation: Two Jason Ockert eople speak to each other for two minutes continuously on two different subjects simultaneously (“Victoria’s Secret” and “frogs”). Dialog ends up being nonsense, but entertaining because of the juxtaposition. 

Anthony pointed out that when people speak, we’re getting not only the spoken dialog, but the entirety of their subconscious as well.

The next exercise had us paired and one partner wrote five questions, the other five answers, without consultation. This creates a dialog, again nonsensical but with occasionally surprising emergences of meaning.

Language has multiple layers of meanings. Surrealism raises questions rather than answering questions.

Benjamin Percy

The seminar du jour was Jason Ockert on digression and how a digression can serve to develop the story in surprising ways.

Afterwords was round two of student readings, including myself. My selections were two short stories, “Le Pont des Arts” and “Thy Neighbour’s Goods” both of which, but especially the latter, will well-received.

Evening readings were Jason Ockert and Benjamin Percy. Percy is an amazing reader with a scary intense deep voice, well-suited for reading from his werewolf novel, Red Moon.

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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 8

Our day began with Jason Ockert teaching about writing the Short Short Story. Notably, I thought I got something actually usable out of a writing prompt. Then morning workshop.

In the afternoon, we had synthesis. A diagram that we drew to draw connections between seminars and common reading was well-received by the synthesis group. I had one participant say that from what he had heard, we had the best of the synthesis groups which was a bit flattering.

Later in the afternoon, I met with my mentor (Tibor Fischer) and mapped out my semester plan.

The evening readings were Amy Hill Hearth, who seemed to talk about her story more than she read from it and Tibor who really annoyed me because I realized that I’m going to have to read all his stuff.

There was a bit of depressing news as well at the reading: This will be Tibor’s last term with the program. I had hoped to work with him for my thesis term, and this dramatically changes how I’ll approach mentor selection next term.

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Residency day 5

The tradition has become that the mid-point day of the residency is a bit lower-key than usual. We have the morning free for our own reading and writing, although I managed to be far less productive this residency than last. After lunch I led the first of two synthesis sessions. Last residency, this was done with the full student body present and some sort of collaborative information collection (places to submit, books to read, etc.). Since we were given no guidance or direction, I decided to take it instead in a bit more of what I wanted to get out of such a time, with us discussing the seminars that had previously taken place. After a bit of redirection, letting the participants know it wasn’t a bitch session, we had a productive discussion, although I need to work a bit more on getting everyone to participate.

The afternoon seminar was Mikhail Iossel’s Discovering the Story, where he looked at some of the details of how three stories worked. 

The evening reading consisted of Jessica Anthony reading excerpt from her novel The Convalescent and Jason Ockert reading his story “Still Life” which had originally appeared in One Story.

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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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