Sorry sorry sorry. I’ve been MIA ever since I left for Kenyon. I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I left. I ended up not coming straight home from the conference and instead went to my sister’s house for four days since our kitchen wasn’t done being remodeled yet. Came home for oh, about 36 hours to do laundry before packing up again and heading to Canada to visit my mom for a week. So I’ve been back for eight days in my own home, suitcases unpacked, new refigerator stocked with food again and trying to sort through all that I experienced at Kenyon. I’m sure I will be writing about it many more times in the coming months but let me start here.
First of all I worked my ass off. Five, six, seven hours a day of writing outside of the classroom in addition to attending readings, eating, sleeping and socializing. It was both exhilerating and draining. I slept for twelve solid hours my first night back. So much got churned up for me regarding my own writing process and it still has yet to settle. It feels like I have layers upon layers that I need to sift through and will continue to do for a long time. It’s hard to pinpoint the one big thing I learned. It feels so intangible. It was just the experience of being immersed in my writing and having Ron Carlson be so incredibly generous in sharing his own process.
Below is an inventory of the work I did in a week:
Kenyon Review Fiction Workshop with Ron Carlson
Inventory of New Work
100 Word Chapter Novel
“Love is a Ripe Green Pepper” • 1200 words
“Barely There” • 495 words
6 Space Breaks
“Dead Deer Bingo” • 3697 words
Person, Place, Song
“What Sixteen Looks like” • 744 word
The Pet Store story
“Off Season” • 1191 words
The Ticking Clock
“Big Glove” • 1191 words
Fairy Tale Monologue
“The Giant’s Wife” • 994 words
“Wrong number” • 450 words
“Dialogue on Park Bench in Rittenhouse Square” • 140 words
Five of these pieces I plan on revising. So one concrete thing I learned is that I will never run out of ideas. Each day new characters appeared in new settings with new stories. I didn’t think I was afraid of that but maybe I was. I remember that Annie Dillard quote about shooting it all, spending it all every time you write and not hoarding it for another story and I think I did hoard tiny things but not anymore. Every piece I wrote at Kenyon was brand new.
I learned I can write at night. I’ve gotten into such a routine at home. I write in the morning and afternoon while the girls are in school. Night time is family time but often it’s just spent watching TV. I think a different energy emerges at night too so it might be worth exploring.
I learned where I quit in a story. I get to that part where I don’t know and I lose steam. Ron says the whole point is to write yourself out to that point in the ocean of your story where you can no longer touch bottom, the sky and water seem to merge and you don’t know which way is up. You’re out of breath and there’s that slight panic building and all you want to do is grab a life preserver in the form of a cigarette, cup of coffee, donut or even cleaning the crud from the sides of the fridge but the writer is the person who stays out there a little longer, 20 minutes should do it and the story itself becomes the life preserver. In that 20 minutes you find that one small piece of inventory, that one detail you can grab onto and keep yourself afloat.
That’s about all I can process for the moment.
“The writer is the person who stays in the room when she doesn’t know what’s going to happen.” – Ron Calson