Last Week in Review: [Aug 15 – 19]

This is what “we” did last week. (FYI: It was awesome.)

  • We finished writing some Seven-Sentence scenes/stories and then we shared (some of) them. We talked about how sometimes not knowing the whole story (or the whole back story) is actually good because it increases the tension. We also talked about the difference between blowing smoke in the general direction of someone’s face and smashing a plate over his head.
  • Then we watched another gray and mumbly movie! Except for the mumbly part was intentional this time because it had Marlon Brando in it. And he could’ve been a contender. Also there were pigeons. Lots of different kinds of pigeons.
  • We said things matter. Objects. In stories. It’s not an accident that the Eevill Super-Nazi likes clocks in The Stranger. Just as it’s not an accident that pigeons (and hooks and jackets) figure prominently in On the Waterfront.
  • We visited the Cultural Capital! and everybody was wearing caps and gowns and a super-mega-billionaire British lady was all talking about how she wanted you to fail. Miserably. A lot. Because that’s what she did. Until she didn’t. Not sure if this is related, but I think she works for Amnesty International or something.
  • We (that is to say: you; which is to say: some of you) read [y]our life story to everybody(ish). Turns out some of you are o[r]bituaries. Or nations with closely guarded borders. Also paint samples. Rocks. Reluctant siblings. Also, these persons-places-things featured prominently: Dentistry. Al Green. Seattle. Billy Collins. Legos. Also memory, loss, lyricism, worry, frustration, imagination. And metaphors. Lots of metaphors.
  • We read this weird essay that was like a collage.
  • We read some Philip Levine poems and heard him talk a little to the NPR people. Which reminds me…
  • [A Retrospective Note in “Defense” of Philip Levine: Generally speaking, the verdict on Levine’s work (the very limited sample we read) was a semi-collective: Meh. That’s fine. I don’t expect or even want you to “like” everything you read. It’s extremely important to dive into the meh though, especially when you’re meh about a well-known writer or text. Why? Because reading is never an absolute, objective experience. It’s relative. There’s a context and that context changes over time. It changes from writer to writer, too. Philip Levine is rooted in a very particular context: white, working-class man from the Rust Belt in the second half (third quarter?) of the 20th Century. It’s understandable that poems rooted in such a context might not resonate with you now (or ever). That doesn’t mean the work or the writer isn’t significant, nor does it mean it’s useless for you to understand why other people find the work/writer significant. In fact, that disconnect should pique your curiosity. It’s a clue that the work/writer is likely coming from a completely different set of contexts (experiences/values, etc) from you. Writers don’t reject those sorts of differences out of hand; they explore them.]
  • We read two short prose pieces: one by Melanie Rae Thon and one by Michael Ondaatje. They were both sort of about water (but not exclusively) and they both read a lot like nonfiction, though one was in an anthology called Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories and the other was in an anthology called In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction. Which was weird. I mean. We got over it, but it was a little odd at first. We finally suggested that the authorial pose — what does he/she call it? — and (perhaps more important) a reader’s expectations are two crucial variables when it comes to sussing out the difference between fact, fiction, nonfiction, and/or truth.
  • Which lead us — yet again — to a brief discussion of The Toolbelts. And that’s always a good time.
  • Also we talked about how it’s good to write about your life, whether you call it a poem or a story or an essay or a screenplay.
  • However: sometimes it’s hard to tell the story all the way true. For several reasons. One, it could be you don’t remember everything about the story. Two, it could be some of the story’s really boring. Three, it could be the process of writing helps you discover a theme or thread you want to develop further than the actual events would allow. And, of course, four: it could be it’s pretty private and there’s parts of the story you don’t want to share.
  • Writer’s embellishments are fine unless you have created the readerly expectation — directly or indirectly — that you aren’t embellishing. If you embellish in that case, you run the risk of breaking your reader’s heart. And not in a good way.
  • As per usual, we encountered invitations. To create!
  • We also noted a thing or three about not following the assignment (by A LOT).
  • And we noticed what we noticed when we weren’t noticing the noticing. Or something along those lines.

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