Friday, October 07, 2005

Day 4

We had the last of the crit groups today, thank goodness! The stories were all so great, but trying to read them all by 9am was hard, plus we had to get our writing assignments done. I went to bed around 1am the night before, so I was starting to feel the tiredness catching up to me. After critique group session, Debra gave a lecture on research, which was really helpful. Writers must do research, whether they’re writing about a real world or one they make up, because even the made up stuff has to be plausible and grounded in reality. We have to understand culture, religion, monetary systems, textile industry (clothing, weaving, etc), and so forth. Debra gave us the method she learned in grad school when starting to research subjects we have absolutely no knowledge of. The biggest tip: start with children’s nonfiction to get a high-level discussion with pictures.

After lunch, we broke into small groups to read aloud the stories we were assigned to write on Monday. Mine was a humorous tale based on the assignment "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Iceberg," which, of course, was an assignment to write a funny story about the Titanic. Afterward, we regrouped for the colloquium, which was an open discussion about all aspects of writing – whatever students wanted to know. The one thing that all of the instructors emphasized was that if you write a good story, it will get published. In fact, they could not emphasize that enough. Another thing they said more than once was that every student in the room would be in the top 5% of the slush pile.

Writers learn about the slush pile – that huge stack of manuscripts waiting to be read, which came "over the transom" (unsolicited). Interns are often hired to read them and weed out the "slush" from the good writing. The two editors, Teresa and Patrick, said you cannot believe the kind of stuff that people send – and most of these writers have some chemical imbalance or altered mental state of some kind. Good writers do stand out. Unfortunately, very little writing from the slush pile ever gets published, but if you’re in the top 1-2%, your chances are excellent of at least getting read by an editor.

We had supper, then played a few rounds of Thing and Mafia. Those two games are so enjoyable, and they give the group a chance to bond and friendships to form. We laugh, we tease, the ice breaks, and it’s just plain fun.

No comments: