Tagged with stefan kiesbye

Residency day 5

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Another full day. It began with Stefan Kiesbye giving a seminar looking at blurred boundaries between fiction and CNF. I was reminded of James Tadd Adcox saying that, to him, CNF was just fiction where the protagonist had the author’s name. Kiesbye looked a number of works, talking about the controversy around the publication of Robert Coover’s The Public Burning, fake movie reviews which allow the piece to comment upon its own narrative, something otherwise only possible in a post-modern omniscient POV. We also looked at Stefan’s fake travelogue, “Vanishing Point”. He views it as an exercise in language, how we decide what’s real and what’s not. “It’s not about truth, it’s about sounding true.” He noted that when he first subscribed to The New Yorker he would start reading from the back (where the movie reviews are), and then page forward to the front. He would read pages not knowing what they belonged to but the fiction was always instantly recognizable as such (I noticed this myself while reading Jennifer Percy’s Demon Camp which I started knowing nothing more than the title, and immediately realized it was narrative non-fiction and not a novel purely by the tone of the prose). There’s something especially apropos in this since I’m currently working on a short piece which does this sort of thing.  

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After workshop and lunch, we had the first round of student seminars. I attended an excellent pair of seminars from Bradley Woodrum and Gregg WIlhelm. I’m really looking forward to what’s to come.

The final seminar of the day was Alan Michael Parker with “A book is a thing.” He focused on structuring collections of stories or poems. He defined something as literary if it caused the reader to read forward through the text but backwards through the subtext, that is reading a story will cause the reader to reinterpret the stories that came before. 

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A year of reading

So in 2013, I ended up reading a total of 114 books. Some interesting statistics along the way: 

27.2% were written by women. Asians and Latinos each made up 2.6%. Blacks were 1.8%. I find these numbers to be rather disgraceful.

40.4% were for my MFA. 

Two were in Spanish.

Eleven were translated (from French, Hungarian, German, Ukrainian, Russian and Japanese if you must know).

Fiction made up 57.9% of the year’s reading. Poetry made up 2.6%.

And my top reads of the year, alphabetically by title:

It’s interesting to note that whenever I’ve done these end of year lists, I never have a set number that I’m aiming for. Interestingly, though, I consistently end up picking about 10% of the books that I’ve read.

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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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