Friday, July 11, 2008

book learning

The one week intensive course at U of T ended today with a bang - a series of student readings in the Faculty Club dining room, as we all ate our last meal together.  The joke in my group was that I had made almost everyone cry at least once.  No, not by my harsh commentary on their work - in fact, with one student it was the reverse, I had to ban her from denigrating her own work as "shit" or "my little piece."  But instead, somehow, I drew tears by touching a nerve about the importance of the story they were telling.  That's how I know it's working - when the writing is going that deep and matters that much.  Amazing how well you get to know someone when you bare your soul in a small room for hours a day.  

I am indebted to the Pat Schneider book and teaching style Wayson introduced me to, emphasising the positive over the negative - praising what works much more than tearing down what doesn't.  It was thrilling to see the difference between the essays at the beginning of the week and at the end.  We all learned what cutting and confidence can achieve, how clarity and courage can elevate a piece of writing, and that simple language, emotional truth and narrative tension - narrative tension again - make a reader want to follow and read more.  

Anyway, on to the next project, the Sunday workshop, and then a breather.  I'll be able to clear off the rubble on my desk and hang up a few clothes, maybe.  Watch Jon Stewart instead of reading manuscripts.  I'll miss them, those torrents of student words pouring through my computer every evening.  But now, I'll be able to get back to my own.  

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