Tagged with jessica anthony

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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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 8

We’re just about done with the residency. We started with the genre workshop with Tibor Fischer and Corinna Vallianatos talking about beginnings of works. We workshopped a new piece that I wrote this week and despite it being relatively rough in my opinion was well-received by everyone else.

I went for a walk after lunch and nearly forgot to go the synthesis. I remembered just minutes before it was meant to begin.

The afternoon was largely empty until I had my contract consultation.

The evening readings consisted of Stefan Kiesbye who read a chapter from Your House is on Fire Your Children All Gone. It was spooky enough on its own, but Stefan added a backing soundtrack for added eeriness. Jessica Anthony read from a novella in progress and Jeff Parker finished off the reading series with a short story which concludes with a character (probably) disappearing into a sinkhole. Damn it, that was a story that I wanted to write.

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Residency day 2

Don Morill’s seminar was “Sentences & Paragraphs as Aesthetic Performance.” There were some interesting thoughts on linguistic structure and how it can be enhanced, although perhaps the most interesting part of the seminar came early when he produced Su Hui’s “Star Gauge”

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Courtesy of some aspects of Chinese linguistic structure the above can be read in a variety of different ways, with over 3000 poems possible here. A sort of prefiguring of Raymond Queneau’s Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes. Also of note in the seminar for me was the introduction to me of William H. Gass’s Life Sentences, a book that I now feel compelled to read.

Workshop with Terese Svoboda began with a freewriting exercise, on the title of “How did I get Here.” I managed to come up with a somewhat entertaining piece of 600 words which I think may get some refinement and submission.

Genre workshop was with Mikhail Iossel and Jessica Anthony. While nominally about transforming personal experience into fiction, it was largely about some expansion and compression of time and space looking at two short pieces from The New Yorker: “Getting Closer” by Steven Millhauser and “Going for a Beer” by Robert Coover.

The afternoon seminar was Stefan Kiesbye on “How We Cannot Say What We’re Talking About” which was largely about dialog, looking at some masterful uses of dialog and concluding with a bit of a teardown of some of the bad writing that is the output of Dan Brown.

Our evening reading was a triple header. First we had John Capouya reading from an unpublished essay on a soul singer which he says will appear in print in the year 20never. Corinna Valliantos read the first chapter of a novel in progress about a girl who had been raised by dogs. Some of the lines seemed earily reminiscent of The Island of Doctor Moreau. Finally, Kevin Moffett (who is also Valliantos’s husband) read some selections from The Silent History. I realized just yesterday that Moffett is the author of one of my favorite stories from Best American Short Stories, “Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events.”

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Residency day 7

And now it’s really flown by. Only two more days on campus. The opening seminar of the day came from Jessica Anthony who talked about articulation in fiction. She had us look at a collection of twenty first lines and pick first our top five, then our favorite from those. The obvious choice to me was the opening of Mrs Dalloway: “Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” Another part of the seminar involved writing a continuation of one of the opening lines.

The morning was completed with workshop time, then after lunch we had genre workshop with Jeff Parker, Stefan Kiesbye and Tony D’Souza. We spent time looking at scene. 

Then the afternoon seminar: Parker is proposing an interesting place-based collaborative fiction project. Similar to the Field Notes of The Silent History, but without the app requirement. Instead readers would have to find the story texts hidden in caches around the world. One of the substories revolves around a terrorist plot to blow up the Republican National Convention by sending a manatee stuffed with explosives up the Hillsborough River, a plan that left some potential contributors concerned about the possibility of getting on a Homeland Security watchlist.

Finally we had our evening reading with Tony D’Souza and Terese Svoboda. D’Souza was especially interesting for his willingness to move from behind the podium when he read.

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Residency day 6

It’s beginning to feel like the time is coming to an end. We began today with Tibor Fischer who talked primarily about the pre-Richardson/Fielding novel, with some examples from The Satyricon, Callirhoe, The Unfortunate Traveller and Amadis of Gaul which is apparently a bit of a pre-occupation for him.

We had workshop in the morning and then after lunch, the return of the “wildcard” workshop. This time around, I was with Jessica Anthony, who centered her workshop around the short story “Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff. 

Our afternoon seminar with Enid Shomer had the grand concept of creating word collages, first collecting phrases from magazines and then assembling them into some sort of poem or narrative.

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After a stimulating dinner with some students and faculty from the MFA (along with a student’s wife and child), we had the evening’s reading from Mikhail Iossel and Enid Shomer.

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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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