Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Day Six at Bread Loaf: Rest

Monday was a day of rest, sort of. I participated in the Writers Cramp, a nearly 3-mile run around campus and up to the Robert Frost Cabin and back. I am not fast. I am slow. But Steve from Wisconsin is very fast, and won the race by a minute or so over maybe 25 other runners. It was a beautiful morning and I would have run anyway.

After that I had a group meeting with Richard Abate from ICM. There were 7 of us and the one piece of information I came away with is that it is best not to mention other projects (short story collection, a related novel) in the initial query for a book. It raises too many questions in the agent's mind. That isn't completely consistent with advice I've heard in the past, but it was so strongly stated by Abate that I am convinced it is right.

Then back to Frost's cabin for a picnic lunch and a talk by John Elder on Frost as a Naturalist (a terrific reading of several poems, sitting in the meadow just outside the cabin) and then a look around the house. Very inspiring. I bought Jay Parini's biography of Frost and I'm looking forward to reading it.

In the afternoon I heard readings by Fellow Vestal McIntyre (a funny short story about party hopping in New York) and by Poet Arthur Sze. Sze's reading style is intense; he keeps rhythm, it seemed, with his hand counting the beats in the air. I need to read his work--I think it will be more effective on the page. One line I remember that cracks me up: "When is a koan not a koan?"

The evening reading was spiritual poetry by Fellow Geri Doran, and a chapter from Lan Samantha Chang's novel Inheritance. The latter was, I have to say, something of a disappointment. It was well done, but it seemed so familiar. The chapter saw two sisters in China dealing with the arranged marriage of the younger, and I just felt it had been done. I should give the rest of the book a chance I suppose. Sam Chang's reading style is fun, though, as she made an effort to give different voices to the characters.

Then the waiters gave a reading and they clearly had fun with it. Good stuff!


Jessica Handler said...

Cliff, these read like wonderful travelogues for a place I really want to be. Thanks.

JimT said...

Still reading and enjoying the experience, Cliff. Keep 'em comin'!