Monday, February 28, 2011

Teacher Was Strict

"The real writer is one who really writes."

~Marge Piercy

I stole that quote from Go Into The Story, a blog about the craft of writing and the creative life. Lots of valuable info there, particularly if you are interested in screenwriting, so go take a gander.

Despite what I said about austerity back in mid-January, I have somehow managed (that would mean a very generous hubby, and forfeiting dinners out for some time) to scrape together enough quarters to get myself into a fiction class at Brown. It meets Monday evenings, and tonight being the second class, I have my work cut out for me. But good for you, this will be a quick note.

I've finished the required reading, but I've much to write before this evening's parking melee on Providence's East Side
—an event which always precedes the evening classes. And since Professor C. reintroduced me to Rick Moody (who, by the way, was educated at Brown and wrote, among many other things, The Ice Stormthat chilling tale about WASPy suburbia and key parties *it's a helluva movie, too*), and his short, The Grid (from this), and Delmore Schwartz's fixed hallucination masterpiece In Dreams Begin Responsibilities (the title story remarkable), and a reading list to die for, I am suddenly replenished with noun and verb and phrase, and I am excited! 

(Phew. Take a breather. I'll betcha Professor B. wouldn't have liked that run-on.)

Which is fortunate, as it is necessary for me to produce
 fiction of my own. And if Ms. Piercy is correct, if I am to be a real writer, then I must really write. (Wait, am I not doing that here?) So while I'm off writing fiction, I'll leave you with this:

The Spring by Delmore Schwartz
Spring has returned! Everything has returned!
The earth, just like a schoolgirl, memorizes
Poems, so many poems. ... Look, she has learned
So many famous poems, she has earned so many prizes!

Teacher was strict. We delighted in the white
Of the old man's beard, bright like the snow's:
Now we may ask which names are wrong, or right
For "blue," for "apple," for "ripe." She knows, she knows!

Lucky earth, let out of school, now you must play
Hide-and-seek with all the children every day:
You must hide that we may seek you: we will! We will!

The happiest child will hold you. She knows all the things
You taught her: the word for "hope," and for "believe,"
Are still upon her tongue. She sings and sings and sings.

(One last note: Last week I got an Editor's Pick—and a slice of the cover page—for this piece  at Open Salon, where I also, occasionally, write. Yes, I smiled BIG. And the piece, my friends, was inspired by You.)


  1. Damn right you got an editors pick, you deserve it.
    Love that little potted slice of life there J-Girl and oh, the D.S pome, I love his work.

  2. Nice piece, good luck with the class

  3. I don't want to be a dick and since i really don't know shit about writing and am king of the run on sentence my advice would be to save your money and drop out of that class, i've never put much stock in someone teaching me (or others) how to write, you either do it or you don't, apply ass to seat and let it rip, which creates and intersting visual in my mind, which brings me back to the academic/creative writing shell game, i've often stated that the best way to produce lacking prose is to take a class on it, mfa's (not that that's what you're doing) all tend to write in the same style, what i call technically proficient and emotionally lacking... or something like that, but what do i know, i flunked the only CW class i ever took (when i was 18) and can't write a lick.

  4. congrats on the fiction class, sound fun. Sure you will be great.

  5. Dan- Thanks. Felt good, but still much work to do. Much more D.S. to read - looking forward to it.

    SF- Thanks much!

    Kono- Yes! I think I hit upon an under-anesthetized nerve during a root canal. Ah, and I'm happy to hear you roar. Because at long last you leave us with a link to some of the richest writing around.
    You know, after many years of workshopping it with some of the best, I couldn't agree with you more: It's about the act of doing it. (How about that visual?)
    In my case, taking classes is about discipline, and hanging out with some creative folks who can provide decent feedback. It's about being under the gun, and that kind of expectation makes me produce, baby. I wish discipline were innate, but even if it were, there are so many external factors that keep me away from the craft. (You know what I mean.)
    You make excellent points here, and I grapple with the ROI. Which is likely zilch. But there are valuable tools that you can pick up in these classes. So, while I'm not necessarily in it for an MFA (who wants to write a thesis?), and I'm too damn old for that anyway- it helps.
    I want to write my heart out. Just like you, K. And you know damn straight you can write like nobody's business. And more importantly, you've got one hell of a story to tell. ;)

    David- Thank you. I hope so!

  6. As long as you're writing (and writing for you, specifically), that's all that matters. I was going to mention something akin to what Kono posted, but it sounds like you've got it covered.

    Good writing can't be taught, good writing only comes from practice, practice, practice!

  7. Beer- exactly what my piano teacher used to say. And talk about strict. Ouch, she was a tough one. I'm glad you mentioned writing for oneself, too. So many writers worry about audience and whether their writing will ever be read, that they end up catering to market. I think no matter what you're writing - I don't care if it's about a utility pole - if you write from the heart, if you write with passion, there will be an audience.

  8. An editor's pick on Salon! Congratulations. I absolutely loved that post, so fun, full of camaraderie, and of course, *magic*. And a class at Brown! I so get what you said about discipline. Classes, writing groups, anything that says "Deadline" and "Feedback" fuels the writing -- especially when you're living with kids, who have their multiple deadlines every single day (Soccer! Homework! Bubbling-Over Science Project!) For me, I've learned that at least with a novel, I have to have a first draft done before I share it with anyone, otherwise I can't quite hear the story over the rumble. But then I can open the door and invite people to rumble away.

    Your ROI is in the work you'll do, the time you'll carve out for your fiction writing that you might not have, had you not taken the class. It's worth any check you write. Enjoy!

  9. Oh Seré, thanks for that. You make it sound priceless, so I'll run with that even if it doesn't quite balance out the P&L. ;)

    LA- I can feel you pinching my cheeks! *blush*

  10. I had a writing teacher once who cringed everytime a student used 'just' or 'actually' or 'very' or 'really'. She called them "Weak Words."
    So, in honor of her, please just go actually write a really very good piece of fiction. Thanks. I really actually mean that.

  11. Congrats on being the Editor's pick...and I have handed over the Memetastic Award to you...would be great if you'll accept it...

  12. Nessa- I actually promise to try very hard to just write really good fiction. ;)

    Cat- Congrats to you, and thank you! Now I've got to start thinking of some lies. Hey, that would be writing fiction! ;)

  13. Wow, how wonderful.

    As an aside, I have always loved Providence. I am green with envy.

  14. Laoch- Thanks!
    Yeah, I'm happy to be near Providence, it's a great city. And has come a long way from the early 80's when I first lived there. I left in '85 for New York and then, Boston. And when I finally returned to RI, a dozen years ago, Providence had gone through quite a transformation, a renaissance. Makes it a lot easier being back in the smallest state in the Union.

  15. Sounds like words are being really good to you at the moment, savor it.

    That class sounds like a lot of fun.

  16. Christopher- Well, not sure about that but I try to savor whatever feels like it's working! The class is great. The professor is not only a writer, but also an actor, so it's rather entertaining! ;)