Last night Tom Barbash said in his craft talk to make the manuscript truthful first, elegant later. Pam Houston said she looks to the metaphor for truth. Tonight, Josh Weil said that he honors his first draft for its freshness, its honesty, … Continue reading
I’m back in Tomales Bay for Writing by Writers Manuscript Boot Camp. The faculty readings with Pam Houston, Josh Weil, and Tom Barbash, are just about to start. Despite the fact that I arrived on the west coast yesterday, I’m struggling to … Continue reading
Too much sitting, not enough moving. This morning my body hurt. I stretched, then I set the timer on my phone for an hour, and when it went off, I got down on the floor and stretched again. Then I … Continue reading
Writing, writing, writing–story, character, tone, dialogue. These few days in Boulder are all about craft. “Tone is what you hear through the motel walls,” Gary Ferguson said in his craft talk this morning. “There are no rules,” Pam Houston said … Continue reading
Just a few weeks ago I was driving out of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge while debating with Andre Dubus III and Kwame Dawes the pros and cons of this age of connectivity in which we live. What … Continue reading
In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard wrote, I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we … Continue reading
All my physical therapist, who is from the Netherlands, has to do is lay his hands on my neck or back and I’m all better. He’s a wonderful painter, as well as a reader, and so we spend the rest … Continue reading
Five amazing days–October 16-20–at the Marconi Center in Tomales Bay for Writing By Writers‘ first conference with Dorothy Allison, Ron Carlson, Pam Houston, Fenton Johnson (Fenton the Human), Antonya Nelson, and Carl Phillips. Morning workshops. Afternoon panels. Evening readings. The … Continue reading
More than 50 authors were loose on the streets of Brattleboro, Vermont, for the fun and successful Brattleboro Literary Festival! The Literary Death Match was hilarious–Adrian Todd Zuniga as host. Roxana Robinson read against Rigoberto Gonzales , while Pam Houston read … Continue reading
The Brattleboro Literary Festival–named one of the top five upcoming writing and literary festivals by the Writer’s Circle–starts this coming Thursday–October 3rd in New England-y Brattleboro, Vermont. And… I will be on a panel to celebrate building communities of readers and … Continue reading
Hey to all the new readers and followers who found Catching Days by way of Freshly Pressed! Thanks for your comments and your likes. I hope each of you will be back. And a big thank you to Freshly Pressed for … Continue reading
Some of my favorite writers will be teaching workshops this coming October at Tomales Bay–Pam Houston, Ron Carlson, Antonya Nelson, Cheryl Strayed, Fenton Johnson, and Carl Phillips. Writing By Writers is hosting six workshops October 16-20, 2013 at the Marconi … Continue reading
Thrilled to have a craft essay in the new issue of Brevity, which includes fifteen brief wonderful essays by Sven Birkerts, Brian Doyle, Robin Hemley, David Jauss, Thomas Larson, and more. Plus other craft essays by Philip Graham and Mary Clearman … Continue reading
New essay by Pam Houston–now up at Hunger Mountain. Here’s the first paragraph: When I was four years old my father lost his job. We were living in Trenton, New Jersey at the time, where he had lived most of … Continue reading
From Colorado, California, New York, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, and Germany–we are a writing group that meets twice a year in person and exchanges manuscripts two other times by mail. We read a book a month and discuss it online. We also eat and hike. Sometimes we dance or howl. Ten to twelve women, depending.
Last week we met in Creede, Colorado, at Pam Houston’s ranch. For one, it was the first meeting with the group. For me, it’s the beginning of my fifth year. The food was spectacular–maybe even better than usual–or maybe I was hungrier. On Wednesday night Summer Wood read from her new novel-in-progress. On Thursday night we sat outside and listened to the sounds of MoJones as the light shifted above and around us.
Get ready for some name-dropping rock star highlights from awp 2011 in Washington DC: running into Josh Ritter in the bar Wednesday night…ricotta pancakes with sour cherries Thursday morning…sitting behind Jennifer Egan on Saturday and hearing her read “You (Plural)” from A Visit From the Goon Squad…seeing the millions of real live books on the book fair tables…listening to Josh Ritter give his first reading and listening to him sing…a nice, long visit with Robin Black…dinner in Adams Morgan with Benjamin Percy and Pam Houston, and Fenton Johnson and Pam Houston…seeing all my VCFA friends and wonderful conversations with Dave Jauss, Sue Silverman, Patrick Madden…lunch with my niece and a friend, listening to Charles Baxter on book reviews “to say a book is boring does not say anything about the book; it says something about the reader”… Elizabeth Cox on the dialogue in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”…Jill McCorkle: “She’d a been a good writer if there’d been somebody standing there with a red pen her whole life”…Richard Bausch on Hemingway edits…quick visits with Sheri Reynolds, Hannah Tinti, Maribeth Batcha, Bruce Machart, Robin Oliveira, Tony Eprile, Ellen Lesser, Richard McCann, Vivian Dorsel, Robin Hemley, Connie May Fowler…going to the book fair again and again and seeing all the millions of real books out there in the world, meeting in person Mike Curtis, Cornelius Eady, Lucy Corin, Richard Peabody, Megan Sexton, Matt Bell, Diane Goettel …books, bookmarks, buttons, and more…
Well, it’s Saturday, the last day the ten of us will be together at Pam Houston‘s ranch in Creede, Colorado. Lots of reading and little extra time. Our next meeting will be seven days instead of six.
I’m up early to finish reading manuscripts. Two stories this morning then a phone conference on two stories this afternoon. Last night, after Greg and Tina opened on electric guitars, Pam read the amazing end of the book she’s just finished. We’ve been hearing sections for a while, but no one had heard the end. Wow. Now the waiting until we can hold the book in our hands and read it over and over again.
It was a quick week. Welcome dinner Monday night. Two manuscripts on Tuesday with a talk on language–the beauty of sentences–that afternoon by Greg Glazner. Then back for the best salmon I’ve ever tasted. Tuesday, three novel excerpts, then that evening, a reading by Summer Wood from her soon-to-be published novel Wrecker, as well as a reading by Greg from his book in progress.
Thursday we left papers behind and hiked in Phoenix Park up to the waterfall. It was a stunningly beautiful day with a bright blue sky and shimmering aspens everywhere–quakies. Lunch outside at Kip’s. And then the Saints game–party courtesy of our New Orleans writer, Karen, including seven-layer dip, a jersey, and a particularly good photo of Jeremy Shockey.
Yesterday, four stories, a pasture walk, and then a novel excerpt bring us to our wonderful evening last night. After today’s work, it will be dinner and a play in town.
I’ll be up at 5:30 in the morning for my drive back to real life.
With the other things I’ve written, I’ve seen the structure from the very beginning. As I type these words, I realize: I’ve also seen the story from the beginning too. So, hmmm…
Anyway, I’ve just read a few pages in Mark Rose’s Shakespearean Design. I spent ten minutes taking apart Pam Houston’s Sight Hound–8 chapters within which 12 different narrators have sections, some speaking only once.
Now I’m on the floor, playing with books. I’ve taken all of Ellen Gilchrist‘s books off my shelf–all 22 of them. I quickly return to the shelf her 1987 and her 2000 versions of Falling Through Space (her journal), as well as her book on The Writing Life, Anabasis (her novel that takes place in ancient times), her Collected Stories, and my hardback copy of The Anna Papers.
After a second’s glance, I also return to the shelf her two lives-in-stories: Nora Jane and Rhoda. I love these two books in which all the stories she wrote over twenty years about Rhoda are collected in one volume and those about Nora Jane, in another volume.
I start with the novels. The first one I pick up is The Anna Papers–possibly my favorite. There’s a Contents page: a Prelude, and then five named parts. I skip the prelude, read the first paragraph of Chapter 1, skip to the second to last page of the first part and read. I turn the page to Part II, then another page to read the beginning of Chapter 15 (so the chapter numbers continue through the parts). I want to catch the reason for the separate parts. I read two and a half pages and am swept away.
That’s when I hopped up to write this post. The Anna Papers is one of the reasons I wanted to learn how to write. To do this. What she did.