Day One of the Writer's Conference and Workshops!

Today is Saturday, March 5:
Friday, March 4, was the first real day of the conference and I will get right down to it.  I was exhausted after a full day of tapping the creative core!!  I will tell you one thing; you need cerebral stamina to keep up.  By 5:30 pm, I was cashed out.  I literally wanted to grab a bag of Doritos and watch re-runs of the Three Stooges..  But oh, what glorious, creative fun!

After the opening remarks which although the writing was well done, the topic of Invisible Borders, was too politically sided for my preference.  I listened through the 50 minute reading by a very well known writer and was able to at least extract his rythym, use of language and prose and leave behind that I disagreed with most if not all of what he said.  But again, to be a writer. 

Now, just imagine a very large meeting hall in a very old building, 1839 first Tempe Normal School, wall to wall with history and great sound for readings and most attendees coming in by 9:00 for the opening remarks for the day, a little coffee and off to your selected class.  I again, although invited to observe the Master's Class in Non-Fiction, it was limited seating and strictly adhered to, so I went to a class by Shannon Cain who was discussing How to Kill a Cliche.  We had the most perfect venue, outdoors, golden sunshine and minus the bit of construction noise nearby, we had a great time.  She was an enthusiastic instructor and guided us through how cliches work their way into our writing.  We were given an exercise; Your mission is to write in one-word syllables, two sentences max, a snipit revealing to the reader a man is crying.  Wow... 

"With the grip of her hand, she lent to him the chance to fall to her.  A tear came and his breath, cold in the air, freed him for the first time."

That was my take on it and I did read it aloud.  A few others read.  Another lesson about Workshop, it is work, you should go in with both feet, anxious to participate, hear your own voice, find your own voice.  I am learning more about the Art and Craft of Writing than I ever thought I would. 

Next Workshop I chose: Reading Like a Writer by K.L. Cook  call me Ken..
Loved it!!  I would take all classes from this man.  I loved his reading aloud, his breath accentuated the light feather of "th", "v" and "f".  His passion, knowledge of text, historical work he pulls from and his ability to show the lay person like myself, what we need to see, was masterful.  I wished I had another hour with him in this session.  He showed for us the work of Steinbeck and how we can learn from his penning, Cannery Row.  I have never read Steinbeck I am sad to say, however it does not mean I cannot.  Just find time!!

The exercise involved reading and understanding 1st, 2nd 3rd person and 3rd person omniscient which I can say I did know all of those terms via other workshopping I have done.  I was not completely in the dark.  Thank God.  I am also finding myself in the company of some very intelligent writers who themselves are participants.. their readings are beautifully done and they are "getting it".  Some are published, some working on pieces..   The notes in my journal for this class are a scratchy mess and in bold letters I finally relented; "I am lost!!!  Going too fast!"  I did not give up but by the time 4 minutes (yes, 4 minutes to get a piece together..) I had nothing to read..

After lunch I attended a panel discussion with Gretel Erlich and Cynthia Hogue, two distinctly different writers but yet very eloquent in their work.  One a memoirist and one a poet.  I have also learned I have a new affection for poetry.  It is not just the sing songy, rhyming poetry you would assume.  It transcends narrative into a song and reads like a very intuitive short story in some cases.  Not at all choppy or predictable.  I earned a new respect for the poet and what fiction or non-fiction has to learn from poetry.  This exchange was dynamic and fluid, engaging and yes, I spoke up again.  I was feeling more and more at home.

I chose Writers in Conversation with Victor LaValle, Naeem Murr and Antonya Nelson.  This was held inside the Virginia Piper's House, you know the old wood floors, narrow doorways that cocoon you and the over sized furniture just begging for you to put your feet up, read-write. 

The opening by the very young MFA student with grown up features including a beard, glasses and worn, brown dress shoes, left us all a bit off when he introduced each writer and then turned it immediately to us for questions.  We sat silent.  We needed to hear from them first in order to ask them to share with us their methods on the craft.  So Antonya saved the day by asking her fellow writers a question on guilty pleasures.  What do you read as a writer.  That saved the day and the hour discussion flowed much more smoothly.

Time and Place with Gretel Erlich, Andrea Barrett and Jem Poster was next and this was held in the larger meeting room.  This was the panels' take on setting place and time in your story and the value from doing it well.  Some questions were taken from the audience and this last class concluded my day.  Whew!! I need a glass of wine..  yes, I did... two..

I am now midway through Saturday as I write this and I had the wonderful opportunity to workshop with K.L. Cook again and actually completed a work, although there was not enough time to read.  I finished it up with a couple of extra minutes and like it enough to at least put it here to conclude this post.  First, the exercise today was to write an "apology that was not really an apology". (Read: Tony Hoagland, Lucky and This Is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams).
The class was titled "Let's Misbehave".  It is designed to open for the writer an opportunity to lend in some cases, much needed "meaness" to our characters.  If our characters are lying flat for us, throw another rock at them and then some more as Hoagland says.  Then rescue them from the tree.  We had 4 minutes.  Again, I ran out of time initially but finished it about 1 minute later.  I did not read this one aloud today:

I pinched the sliver cuffs tight around her wrists and knew the cramped backseat would lend little room for relief.  The heat in the car was stifling but I turned the dial to high, an attempt to force some relief past the plexiglass shield dividing the front and rear seats.
I am sorry for the lack of comfort.  I apologize for your suffering, back there in the heat,
in August,
in Arizona
4:26 p.m. on this Tuesday
and you ask again, "Am I really going to jail?  That's fucked up."

But Graciella, your daughter died today. She died so you could climb back into bed. Tired after your night's foray-the stink of men and pot thick in your clothes and hair. 
Exhausted from taking your own mother to work just before dawn this morning. 
Graciella died while she cried locked tight in her car seat. 
Right where you left her. 

Yes, I am taking a direct experience in my work as a cop and using them quite often in this workshop.  I did two more times today..Parental indifference..

Gotta get back to the readings and an afternoon filled with more workshopping!!  Recommendations;  Read, read, read.  Read as much as you can.  Read really good writing, read poetry, somewhere quiet.  Not a commercial fiction but something, anything classic.  I have to do more of that.  Participate, force yourself to read something aloud.  Let your heart beat right out of your chest in the process, your words trip and stammer just before you finish and your lips tremble a little.  A natural high.

More later. 


stacey said...

Love it, the inside conference scoop!, but mostly also love your about me info. I love the way you describe your life, family, philosophy. I feel like the older I get, the more I live. My husband teases me about coming of age in my 40's. I feel like a teenager. Most days.
Check it out,
check out my 'on happiness' post
; )

Dawn Brazil said...

This sounds like a great conference. Learn all you can, then come back and teach us some. LOL

Meg Waite Clayton said...

I met Cooks spouse at a conference year ago. Very nice post!

Anonymous said...

How fun!! I'm sooo jealous! I especially liked your writing exercise, and I can hardly imagine how much writing material you have because of your cop experience.

Adrian said...

Thank you Meagan, Meg, Dawn and Stacey for the comments! It was such a blast and so many lessons learned!!

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I figured things out late in life, like what I wanted to do, getting married (age 30), having kids, (36 and 38) and changing degrees about 3 times. Now as a cop of 19 years and in my mid 40's, I am finally figuring out some things. My first career or dream of becoming a writer is playing more in my head and daily life than ever. I love it. Thus the blog. It is all mine. I also love being a mother. They are all ours. I love my husband and as a cop, wow.. have I seen some things. Street degree. I got it. Let us learn together. I also am on She Writes.