Tagged with mikhail iossel

Final Residency—Days 5 and 6

Monday was another short day. After lunch we had Mikhail Iossel giving a seminar on close reading, which was a repeat of a seminar from an earlier residency. 

Then we had the final round of readings from the graduates. I really enjoyed the stories from Jared Silvia and Benjamin Tier, although all were good.

The evening reading was Carmen Gimenez Smith reading from her poetry. We’ll have her for a seminar tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday opened with a fiction workshop with Jeff Parker, looking at “Difficult Fiction” we examined stories by Lydia Davis, Etgar Keret and Daniil Kharms, taking them apart to see how they worked and then trying to wriIMG 0549te something emulating the technique. I ended up taking a divergent path from something that Keret wrote in “Fatso” to do something which didn’t really meet the parameters of the exercise, but which I think might be usable somehow.

The afternoon began with the first round of graduating student seminars. In addition to my own seminar, I attended seminars from Christina Boussias on revision andIMG 0552 Kari Fuhrman on multiple plots in the novel. 

This was followed by a seminar from Carmen Gimenez Smith on documentary poetry which has inspired me to consider actually tackling the Chicago Sonnets project I’ve been thinking about for the past few years.

The evening readings were Marcus Wicker reading from his poems and UT MFA alum Nathan Deuel reading from his book, Friday Was the Bomb.

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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”


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 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 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 4

Today was St Petersburg day. We were taken in vans from the University of Tampa campus first to the Hotel Don CeSar on St Petersburg Beach. We had workshops on the veranda of the hotel overlooking the beach, then after lunch a bit of free time that I used to take a quick swim in the ocean before spending the rest of the time on reading.

Our afternoon “seminar” was a tour of the Dalí museum, a wonderful collection of Dalí’s work. They focus primarily on his two-dimensional works, paintings and drawings for the most part, a contrast to the Dalí museum in Montmartre which focused on his sculptural works. If the poets in our program didn’t walk out of this tour inspired to write something, they might want to reconsider their plans in life. For my part, I walked out with two ideas, one plot-oriented, one narrative-oriented, which I’m realizing could be combined into a single story. The picture below also suggests a sort of narrative device:

In the evening we had readings from Mikhail Iossel and Rebecca Wolff. Iossel read from his new project, a Facebook-related fiction piece. Wolff read three short poems and a short story, her first short story ever, she claimed.

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Residency day 2

And now things begin to really happen. The first agenda item was a meeting of people interested in working on Tampa Review Online, a bit disorganized in terms of planning etc., but I signed on to be a reader for fiction.

Thence to the first workshop, about which I will say nothing (what happens in workshop stays in workshop).

I had lunch at a table which was otherwise faculty, adding Nick Flynn to my list of people I’ve met who have been interviewed on Fresh Air. He enjoyed the opening paragraph of “Girls” that Josip Novakovich asked that I read.

After lunch was the first of the genre workshops, although this was less a workshop than a seminar/lecture to my mind. I’m curious to see how the faculty who will be leading the second workshop handle things and how it compares. There were a few interesting readings offered, most notably some excerpts from Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau which seems a book worth having.

At one point Mikhail Iossel said that authors repeat themselves. I almost offered up Exley and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England as an example, but there was no opening. Probably for the best as I happened to look around the room and made eye contact with Brock Clarke.

This was followed by a seminar from Nick Flynn, entitled emotional rescue. This was the first moment that I really felt like I was learning something about improving my writing. The key takeaway here was to watch for certain red flags in our writing: exposition, abstractions and direct statements of emotion.

The evening’s reading was all Nick Flynn (again). He read selections from his memoirs and poetry, accompanied by a slideshow of semi-abstract imagery which is a nice way to add visual interest to what is otherwise a visually static experience.

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