Friday was a little warmer than the previous days. I started with a quiet walk in the woods, then headed down to breakfast and the first session of the day, Charlie Baxter's advice on "Making a Scene." What I took from the lecture was that we must, in stories, allow our characters to "make scenes" that we, or most of us anyway, would in real life avoid. I think this is another way of making the story and the action and the characters jump off the page for readers, but is a wonderful way of remembering this important facet of fiction. In my next story, I'm going to have a character climb up on a table and start shouting.
Then I had my conference with Charlie. We went over the story I workshopped, and Charlie actually changed his mind about one thing he had suggested that I do in the piece, and so the revisions I have to make are, he said, "light." It was a good discussion and I feel good about the story, although I'm not sure I agree with the notion that the changes ahead are all that light. Still, he liked it, and I'm looking forward to making the changes.
In the afternoon I attended a publishing panel with editors and agents, including Richard Abate from ICM, with whom I'm also meeting in a small group on Monday. There were also representatives of Houghton Miflin and Simon & Schuster, and a small press, 4-Way Books. The advice was mostly not news, but that doesn't mean it wasn't worth hearing again.
In my free time I worked up the two stories we'll read in workshop on Saturday, both quite good starts, I thought. I also read a Richard Bausch story that Charlie Baxter asked us to read for the purpose of discussing our handling of time. It's a great story that I'd read before: What Feels Like the World.
I skipped the afternoon readings by fellows, but in the evening I heard Doreen Baingana read from her collection of stories, Tropical Fish. The piece she read was a very powerful story about a Ugandan woman who becomes involved with a "pink, fleshy foreigner." Then Claire Messud read from her novel that will come out next year. She's a terrific reader--the piece she read I had heard her read at Sewanee last year. I can't wait to see the book next year.
Followed by parties, talking, and then lying in bed listening to the mice . . .