Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Writers in Paradise, the End

Since Friday was jam-packed and I had no time to write, this entry will cover the last two days and I'll try to keep it brief. No promises.
The morning session was a panel on publishing, two editors, an agent, an editor of a literary magazine. Mostly what they said is what anyone who follows the business knows. Write your best. Don't let an editor/ agent be your First Reader- give your manuscript to as many good readers as you can, before it leaves your house. Don't be a pain in the butt client. Read what's out there but don't copy what's out there.

On Friday afternoon in Ann Hood's memoir workshop, she touched on other forms of creative non-fiction. We started with her take on personal essays. "In some ways as challenging to write as short stories." Ann quoted Grace Paley's statement that a short story is always two stories: the obvious one and the one happening beneath the story. The climax is when they come together and clash. And that can also happen in a personal essay.

Saturday morning started with the editor of The Chattahoochee Review. Good advice about submitting to literary magazines/ journals. An agent followed, with more publishing advice. We learned that everybody's happy when a book sells 15,000 copies. A lot sell only 2000. More advice, excellent and specific, about crafting the query letter. She even tore apart the letters (anonymous) of a few brave souls willing to have their letters used as samples. Very brave souls.

Then to our last session with our amazing teacher. Highlights? She reminded us again to use those similies sparingly: it's hard to find a great one. You defeat what you are trying to say if your simile (or metaphor) is jarring. Sometimes you don't need anything. It just gets in the way. We talked about about structure, about the container. How some pieces seem to cry out to be short, for example, four months of time passing, a specific road trip.

Since this class has officially been about memoir, I'll end with something Ann Hood said today about the hard things, the sad things that memoir is often about. "It's hard to decide what's interesting when it's your own life. But think about what's interesting to the reader. It's all about the literature."

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