Day 3: Call it what you will I honestly don't give a rat's ass. Ultimately it's words, arranged in a particular fashion, with the intent to educate, entertain, enlighten, or otherwise distract us from other cares, or conversely bring those cares into stark focus. Does it matter if it's called fiction, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, historical fiction or non-fiction? Just the label - non-fiction - is fundamentally inaccurate I doubt whether it's possible for anything to be written without the author making something up. I, for one, do not care what you call it, any more than I care if a certain type of music is labeled jazz, free jazz, modern jazz, jazz fusion, or Dixieland jazz. I don't care if the music is categorized at all, because it is, like words arranged in a particular fashion, simply notes and rhythms arranged similarly...in a particular fashion.
(Non-sequinator: know the name of the guy with the missing eye and raging libido before signing up for one of these pow-wows.)
Of course labeling that particular fashion aka genre is necessary to a degree - I won't argue that. Information needs order. But to split hairs over what is non-fiction vs. creative non-fiction vs. fiction is classic mental masturbation. Fortunately at our workshop it is presented, if one listens closely, by an expert who might have had her tongue surgically attached to her cheek at a very young age. We belabor the argument just to illustrate it's ultimate absurdity. At least that's what I took from this morning's discussion. If I hadn't, I might have felt like it was a waste of time.
Our residency is blessed with the presence of the Victoria Williams of literature in the person of the lovely Ann Pancake. Her southern lyricism is as quirky as her name, and tonight she was one of our after dinner readers, very fitting since we had fried chicken and chocolate sundaes. A little girl in her latest novel, Strange As This Weather Has Been , makes a necklace from a mouse skull, which is what she read about, more or less, tonight. Everybody was laughing their brains out. Those Limbolanders that are following along on my MFA residency romp would, I'm positive, enjoy her Strange Weather...
What else today, besides the helpless frustration that accompanies a general internet outage causing the Big Fat Blogger to get a day behind in his reporting.
Well, as the days go, we start with the craft talk - today was the whole genre-bender discussion - followed by "workshop", where we collectively work on a story or piece of a novel from one of the program participants. I will say that the writing that I've seen so far has been consistently professional, and in most cases far more developed than mine. Of course there's always room for improvement, but it's been focused on story, not so much on the writing.
In the afternoon we have classes: today the nature writer Gary Ferguson led a discussion on...nature writing! It was excellent. And Rebecca McLanahan helped us work through "shifts" in story tone and structure, in the interest of keeping readers focused. For example if I launched into a diatribe on Yeung Lap Ming and his nasty biz right now, it would signal a shift...ia shift in my lost and bewildered brain. We heard from a grad on "narrative therapy", had dinner, and capped it with the evening reading. Many of my fellow students are now out drinking beer and eating pizza. Somebody's gotta do it.
Day 2: Write what you know. Right?
Or at least if you want your writing to take you into the depths of the unexplored, the unknown, the land of inner surprises (aka Limboland?). There's a little voice. A little teeny tiny baby voice, and it's crying the wilderness, - waaah, waaaah, waaaah, - alone in the vast uncharted expanse of your subconscious mind. And it's trying to tell you something...
It's trying to tell you to brush up on your civil engineering skills because as much as you think you might want to be a writer the universe clearly doesn't need any more of those. But there is a ghastly shortage of civil engineers, and without them the world will fall into chaos and despair before the next Olympics.
Insofar as the writing residency goes, we've decided to shitcan the tree hugging woo woo and focus on math and science. Phew! Look out world, America is back!!