Friday, October 18, 2013

a writer's workshop...

One of my college professors is friends with Nathan Brown, the poet laureate of Oklahoma. So, the two got together and planned out a writers workshop to be held while he was passing through town. That's where I was last night. For a completely nominal fee, I was able to learn from someone both interesting and accomplished as a writer. Which is exactly what happened, for two or so hours I was able to take away bits of information that will make my writing better.

Most of the workshop revolved around how to never be caught without something to write about. His suggestions involved making lists of, well, just about everything under the sun and expanding upon them, pretty much forever. If you have piles and piles of information stashed away, it's nearly impossible to say you have nothing to say. That was the crux of the thing. Since he's a poet and song writer, the list ideas were mostly aimed at making better poets, but every single list idea he gave (some more conventional than others) could be applied equally to fleshing out and understanding fictional characters.

But he also said some other things that really reverberated with me. Things like suggesting that writers who want to write for an audience should think about that audience, while writers who're "writing for themselves" should keep it to themselves.

You wouldn't think that would be mind-altering for me, but it was. I actually teach my students to be aware of audience when they're composing papers, but I, myself, rarely take into account audience when writing fiction. It's the same thing though, right? When academics are writing and publishing papers--this includes students--they must consider their audience in their argument, otherwise, they have no argument that will influence anyone. The same seems to be true for fiction.

Don't get me wrong. Of course I'm aware of who my audience is--other women, like me. But I rarely think of that audience when I'm putting down words. The same is true for blogging, but with blogging I don't actually aim for any particular audience. I just write what's on my mind. I only worry that if I think about my audience too much, or too hard, I'm going to cripple my ability to get the story out. But, it's a balance, I suppose. No one said it was easy.

He also talked about how he thinks the best books are pieced together and suggested that writers of long fiction should take their work in snapshots, rather than trying to tackle the whole thing. Long fiction can be (read: is) overwhelming. It's sometimes difficult to keep all of those balls in the air, spinning around, without dropping any. The snapshot approach, which always makes me think of Jane Austen who is said to have written miniature situational portraits of her era, is a way to make all that juggling approachable. He said that much of the best literature isn't written outright, but knitted together from those snapshots.

After the workshop, the restaurant where it was held brought in snacks--cheese cubes, delicious fresh fruit, loaded potato skins, mozzarella sticks, poppers and breaded baked mushrooms. They refilled the water and tea, and there was a sort of reception. Everyone was charged and feeling inspired by the workshop, chatting about their ideas, what they got out it, and the like. I had a really good time and it felt good to get out and take part in a workshop with other people in the community who write--some of whom were my professors when I was in college.

It was, all in all, a really well-spent night. They're planning, at some point, to do it again and I'm really looking forward to it. Oh, and I meant to get some pictures to share, but my phone was off the whole night--wouldn't want to be that student. So, there're no pictures. It was a modest gathering of really interesting people, though, and I'll definitely have to make a priority of getting some pictures next time.

Now, though, I think I'm going to work on my novel. I have a few new ideas. ;)