Monday, June 12, 2006

IU Writers' Conference--Day 1

I'm participating in two classes in addition to the Amy Bloom Workshop. The first is about First Person Point of View, taught by a charming and lively writer, Dana Johnson. What has been most interesting in the class so far is exposure to a variety of voices within First Person, including the work of J. California Cooper and Thomas Glave, two writers I've not read before. Today we also looked at Catcher in the Rye, which of course is a must-read when talking about First Person.

The second class was taught by Jon Tribble and Allison Joseph, editors of the Crab Orchard Review. They provided copies of the magazine--more to carry home!--and some handouts with some of the basics of the submission process. No new information here so far for someone who submits regularly, but well-organized and clearly presented.

There was also a Q&A session with Amy Bloom today, more or less a live interview run by Bob Bledsoe, the conference director. Among other things, Amy talked about her forthcoming book and a new collection of stories that will appear soon.

In the afternoon we had our workshop, including a writing exercise. Amy used some examples from the three stories we discussed to address some of the topics she promised we'd talk about. The point she really seemed to emphasize today is that nothing is observed without the observer. That is, we should distinguish the well-rendered from that which really matters, and that what is observed is what constructs the unconscious of the character. This strikes me as a hugely important point to remember--and something that is often overlooked, if not forgotten altogether.

One of the writers is working on a sequel to a book she's written. Amy recommended looking at Robertson Davies's The Deptford Trilogy to see how he handles recurring characters--something I'll definitely go back to myself.

We had a group dinner at the Runcible Spoon, so I was able to meet the generous (and well-read) owner who is responsible for my scholarship (as well as some pretty wonderful and reasonably-priced food). Then we assembled for the evening readings to hear poet Barbara Hamby, fiction writer Samrat Upadhyay and poet Tyehimba Jess: all really good stuff.

More tomorrow!

4 comments:

Myfanwy Collins said...

Sounds like a great conference, Cliff. I am a big fan of The Deptford Trilogies.

Jim said...

I'm loving it, Cliff! Keep it coming.

Anonymous said...

Dana Johnson's ss collection (I'm completely blanking on the title, but it won the Flannery O'Connor Short Fiction Award a few years back and is available in paperback from Anchor Books) has some amazing stories in it - nice to see her name pop up in your post - have a great time!

Clifford Garstang said...

The collection is called Break Any Woman Down and I had Dana sign a copy for me tonight. I also told her about your comment, which pleased her . . .