Tagged with enid shomer

Final Residency—Days 7 & 8

Day 7

The morning opened with Rick Chase’s seminar. He began with a bit of “buddhist” meditation. I use quotes and lowercase since I’m not entirely sure if that’s how he views it, although the mindfulness of it does seem very much in that vein. He expanded from this into some poetic writing exercises.

Our first afternoon seminar consisted of Marcus Wicker and Ian Stansel talking about how to break out of the slush pile. Perhaps the most helpful part of this was learning what Stansel saw too much of in the fiction queue: first-person stories. Merely by writing in the third-person, a story can stand out. It kind of sucks for me since the vast majority of my short fiction is in the first person.

The second afternoon seminar was Leslie Jamison talking about going beyond the self in memoir, focusing on Joan Didion’s “The White Album” in articulating her point.

The evening reading was Ian Stansel reading from Everybody’s Irish and Leslie Jamison reading from The Empathy Exams.

Day 8

Rick Moody

We began with more open time for those of us in our final residency. I got a bunch of writing done before lunch. The afternoon began with the last of the graduating student seminars. I heard Kathy Lockwood-Fleming give an excellent talk on characterization in memoir, Jared Silvia discussing revision techniques and Shane Hinton on the work of Daniil Kharms.

TheIMG 0588 second afternoon seminar was another rerun, this time Enid Shomer revisiting a topic that she lectured on back in my first residency.

The evening reading was Rick Moody and Susan Minot. Moody read one story from Demonology and an excerpt from his upcoming novel. Minot read from Thirty Girls, her novel about the atrocities of Joseph Kony’s army in Uganda.

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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 4

The morning seminar was John Capouya talking about ways that as writers of fiction or narrative non-fiction we can employ some of the techniques of screenwriting. There’s a lot to be said for the highly formalized structures that screenwriters apply from the “save the cat” approach to making the protagonist sympathetic to the audience to the three-act structure. As Capouya observed, rarely does structure become cliché. Characters and plots and language, sure, but not structure.

“Give the audience what it wants but not necessarily in the way that it expects.” —William Goldman.

We had a double-dose of workshop including my work getting examined and the academic part of the day concluded with a presentation about poetry publishing from Enid Shomer, stepping in for Barbara Ras. It was interesting to get a sense of the process of selecting and publishing poetry collections happens at a university press, although it only made me more inclined to get a mainstream publishing deal for my own work.

The day was intended to conclude with a social outing to Davis Island. Unfortunately, this happened:

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and also this:

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although we weren’t the only ones to have a bad day:

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needless to say our social outing was cut a bit short and I ended up returning to the hotel to begin my reading and writing period a little early.

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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.


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 midpoint of the residency. The morning was designated as a reading/writing period & I took advantage of that to get a fair amount of work done in the morning. The first activity of the day was “synthesis” which turned out to be a sort of free-wheeling discussion of the residency, one which I hope we will continue online through the blackboard site.

The day’s seminar was Enid Shomer talking on “The Theory of Poetry and the Metaphor of the Mind.” I had been looking forward to this courtesy of the large number of optional readings that I had done, returning a bit to the obsession with critical theory which marked by undergrad days. Back in the 80s, it seemed that critical theory was not just part of what was happening in the academy, but it made its way into the culture, with conservatives decrying the relativism of deconstructionism. There were debates about Derrida in the Los Angeles Times. Maybe some of this still happens and not being centered on academia I’m just not connected.

The evening’s readings were Keith Gessen, reading some selections from his translations of the poems of Kirill Medvedev, and Tibor Fischer who read a couple passages from his first and last novels.

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