Monday, January 03, 2005

Workshop till you drop

I wonder if I am sufficiently energetic to participate in yet another week-long fiction writing workshop. No matter—the fees are paid, the plane ticket in hand, and I am off to Mexico tomorrow for Under the Volcano 2005. This year’s edition promises to be substantially different from last year’s, mainly because the stars are so different: last year the amazing Russell Banks; this year the astonishing Grace Paley. Last year also featured fiction writer Jessica Hagedorn, who was a wonderful surprise, in addition to the workshop director, Magda Bogin. One of these days I’ll write more about Banks—I need to finish his latest novel—but in the meantime there is the workshop to prepare for.

There will be seven us working with Grace. Each has sent our first submission to the group by email and we will share a second submission when we meet in Mexico. I’ve been surprised that four of the group are workshopping novel excerpts. Given that Grace is one of our pre-eminent short story writers, I would have thought short fiction was the way to go. (I’m using two of the stories from my planned collection, pieces I’ve been working on for quite a while.) But the work is good—some of it extremely good—and I’m looking for ward to meeting the gang.

A word about the location. The workshop takes place in a village called Tepoztlan, which is in Morelos state, about an hour and a half southeast of Mexico City. A mile high, with mountains (including the volcano) all around, the climate is delightful. I’ll spend a few days in Mexico City before the workshop, and then will pick another city for a few more days of sightseeing (and, I hope, writing) before heading home. Tepoztlan has a dozen or more internet cafes, so I expect to file reports on our progress, right here.

Grace Paley’s work, especially her short fiction, is well known to most fiction writers, I assume. But she has also published poetry and a collection of essays, both worthy of attention.



3 comments:

Carol Peters said...

gad, envy on multiple fronts. here i am packing for winter in charlotte, you for "winter" in Mexico. i hope it's wildly rewarding, Cliff.

Anonymous said...

From Scott Holstad:

I love Jessica Hagedorn! How was she?

Clifford Garstang said...

Scott,
How is it that you know of Jessica Hagedorn? I'd never heard of her of until I signed up for UTV last year, but now have read most of her fiction--pretty gritty stuff. And she's a kick, likes to have fun, is very New York (but with a Filipina twist). I gather she was pretty serious in workshop.