Tagged with tony d’souza

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 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 4

The day began with Tony D’Souza’s seminar, “The Writer’s Toolbox.” We looked at some of what we can pick up from earlier writers.  The middle of the day was a double dose of workshop in which my work came up. Generally good commentary offered.

And then in the afternoon, one of the items I was looking most forward to, a Q&A period with Deborah Treisman. I recorded this using voice memo on my phone, but the sound levels seem to have been too low to have ended up with a usable recording. Some interesting things that we learned during the discussion: The debut fiction issue had the unfortunate side-effect of having the “vultures” circling the authors featured, some of whom were not quite ready to deal with trying to put together a book-length manuscript. Stories come out of the slush, but very rarely. More often, a work pulled from the slush by one of the interns will instead instigate the beginning of a relationship between the writer and one of the associate fiction editors. Much of what is in the slush is not even remotely publishable. The implication was that the best writers aren’t in the slush because when they’ve reached the level of talent to get published in The New Yorker, they’ll likely have an agent who will manage the submission directly to one of the associate fiction editors. There’s a total of about 400 stories per week coming into the fiction department, about half to the slush and half directly to editors. Speaking of her editing style, Treisman said that what she does is to try not to impose a voice on a story, but instead to attempt to draw the voice out of the story.

The evening publishing panel, in the face of the earlier opportunities to hear from Treisman and Eli Horowitz felt a bit redundant, although there was some interesting insight into the development of Jennifer Egan’s “twitter story”, “Black Box” edited by Treisman and the iPad-based “novel”, The Silent History, edited by Horowitz.


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