Tagged with karen russell

Residency day 3

Lack of sleep is beginning to catch up with me, and I was in a bit of a haze all day. I wasn’t the only one who was lacking sleep though—the first seminar was delayed because Parker overslept for the first time in five years as he claimed.

Our day began with Eli Horowitz, former editor of McSweeney’s. In many ways it was a look at his autobiography, although there were some interesting insights into his editing process.

After our morning workshop and lunch, we then had Karen Russell, who is substituting for Denis Johnson on short notice. Surprisingly, even with this short notice, she was able to prepare a seminar in which we looked at the importance of grounding even (or especially) fantastical narratives. As an exercise, after reading from Kevin Brockmeier’s A Brief History of the Dead, writing our own account of the passage from the living to the dead.

The evening reading was a staged reading of Denis Johnson’s play Psychos Never Dream, a wonderfully funny and coarse work which I wish we had been able to hear all of rather than just the first act. I did find that once again, a staged reading has been less than it can be. Chicago’s Shakespeare Project still remains my gold standard for what a staged reading can and should be.

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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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