Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bread Loaf: Day Four

Saturday was our fourth day. We began, as on other days, with a lecture. This time it was Patricia Hampl's turn and she talked about First Literary Loves, specifically how she came to know the work of Katherine Mansfield and to later practically obsess over the great woman's life. The essay Patricia read also revealed a great deal about her own life, and was very moving.

Then it was time for workshops. In my Baxter workshop we discussed two very interesting stories with lots of potential. I think both authors felt good about the discussions. At one point Baxter, when there was an issue about the use of tense, referred to an article by David Jauss on the present tense. He wasn't quite sure where it had appeared and I was able to supply "The Writers Chronicle" because I had done a close reading of that article for my MFA Craft Lecture two years ago.

In the afternoon there was a lecture by Barry Sanders on Writing in Race in America. He's a brillian guy, but that isn't really what it was about. Still, I would recommend that we all take a look at his work to understand not only the history of race relations in America, but the present. [At one point later in the day he came up to me and said he had been delivering his remarks in my direction much of the time because he saw that I was nodding and paying close attention; we talked about the difficulty of publishing work that crosses racial boundaries, such as my story from the perspective of an African American man. Sanders knew of other situations that were similar but was glad that my story had found a home.]

Then I went to a Class Lecture on Time Management by a former Bread Loaf Fellow, Michael Lowenthal. The point of this discussion was to look at different ways of manipulating time in stories, and we did a close reading of part of Chapter 4 of Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road, to see how skillfully he moved backwards and forwards in a very short space. We didn't get to fully do an exercise he'd prepared but it involved listing all the scenes in a particular story chronologically and then asking the participants to number them for best dramatic effect, and then comparing that to the author's actual choices and then to discuss why we thought those choices were made.

Last program in the afternoon for me was a presentation by Amy Holman on publishing. This was mostly familiar stuff, but she presented a construct for analyzine what kind of stories a particular journal would be interested in--whether plain-spoken or poetic, whether domestic or exotic, whether objective or subjective, and whether the dominant element was character, setting, plot, or language. Then, with that in mind, you can chose what journals are most suited for a particular story. This is something I plan to employ, modified slightly.

There was a reading in the evening by Fellow Chris Castellani, who read from his new novel. It was remarkable for its shift in tone from a light, dialogue-filled scene to a powerful, darker scene, a shift from humor to, um, sex. I talked to him about that later and he said he likes to do that in every story or chapter to provide some momentum to keep the reader interested. I'm going to look for his book, which is called something like the The Patron Saint of Lost Things. Ellen Voight read after that and I found her work very accessible. I was drawn to her mouth, though, as she over-pronounced so many words, for clarity but also, I thought, for effect.

That was followed by a Staff Reading, including Mary Akers's reading of her wonderful essay "On Receiving Notice of my Step-daughter's Pregnancy." She did a great job and afterwards Barry Sanders and his wife Grace came up to her to offer congratulations. Way to Go Mary!

7 comments:

katrina said...

I am gobbling your words up. Thanks, Cliff.

Carol Peters said...

Great stuff you're posting, Cliff, thank you for all of it.

Way to go, Mary! I went to hear Amy Holman read in NYC a few weeks ago -- she is a friend of Madge. Andrea Barrett has a wonderful WW lecture on time.

Jodi Laughlin said...

Thank you for this info...I'm glad things are going well for you. Sorry about your toe, but way to go with Baxter!

Jodi

Clifford Garstang said...

Thanks for the comments. Carol, I wish I had known Amy was a friend of Madge's (they look alike, actually, now that you mention it). About ten minutes ago we had a nice chat. Also, Andrea Barrett is holding a conference with one of her students about 8 feet from me right now!

JimT said...

Thanks for taking us there vicariously, Cliff. Say 'Hi' to Mary and Xujun. And what about MoorishGirl, are they overworking her as waitperson? No entries in her blog since Day 1.

Keep it up!

JimT

Clifford Garstang said...

Jim,
Laila is working hard, but she's off the breakfast shift now so maybe she'll find the time to post more . . .
Cliff

Anonymous said...

Cliff, I would have loved to have heard Patrica H's lecture...I went through a total Katherine Mansfield obsession when I was in New Zealand, read every word she ever wrote, her journals and two biographies...and spent an entire day at the house she lived in as a young child in Wellington...tell Mary I said congrats...I loved the early version of that essay she shared on Zoe..thanks Cliff for bringing us along...karen mcbryde