Monday, June 20, 2011


…I have a couple of new things up:
“The Long Way Home” @ POSTCARD SHORTS
Both are also here under "Words In Print."

…Iowa is over. The workshop was a lot of fun.
In my class, there were a motley crew of eleven: a PhD from the Mayo Clinic; criminal defense attorney; nurse; political staffer for a Wash. DC politician; ad agency owner; hospital chaplain; venture capitalist; and me.
We did a lot of free writing. We would get a first sentence and have to write furiously—whatever came into our minds—for ten minutes.
We would get a solitary word—“sing,” for instance—and have to do the same.
We’d get a starter sentence and then our instructor would be at the black board writing, “Now include Abraham Lincoln in your story.” Then, “add a south American country.” “Put in barnyard smells.” “Add, ‘And that’s when I finally knew…’” etc.
Needless to say, we did a boatload of writing.

…On Saturday night, I read at a small bookstore downtown. I actually read twice, two pieces of free write I’d done in Iowa.
My pieces were pretty decent and I read okay. I got very nice feedback, which I think was genuine.
I just have to stop getting nervous when I read. With all my speaking experience, there’s no excuse for me being nervous.

…Our instructor was a very passionate, animated guy named Doug Goetsch. He’s published many volumes of poetry.
A few of us had dinner with him last night. He’s a New Yorker. Although he looks nothing like George, his mannerism, hand gestures, smile, loud speaking voice when he’s excited, and his laughter, are all identical to George Costanza from Seinfeld. Really.
Doug is a great guy and a wonderful teacher. He kept saying, “Just write the best piece you can write. Nothing else matters.”
He’d said, “Do you think Herman Melville cared if Moby Dick won some award or contest? Do you like he’d not have written Moby Dick if he didn’t think he could get an agent or make any money out of the deal?”
Here are some gems from Doug, many pertaining to writing, but all pretty much about life:

--What makes you uncomfortable is what you should pay attention to.
--The goal is to break your own heart.
--Writing has to try to capture the absolute chaos of what it means to be alive.
--If somebody says something that resonates with you, that’s you talking to yourself through them.
--Good teachers remind you of your own intelligence.
---We have to remember why we do this, why we wanted to do this in the first place.
-The brain is brilliant; this is why witnesses cannot be trusted.
--You have to slip the noose of perfectionism to be good. Perfectionism is nothing but the fear of not being good.
--A novelist knows that the world is scared—all of it.
--When I’m in the hands of Alice Munro, it’s a good day. I think: hell, I’m reading Alice Munro!
-Stories need to be complicated, or they don’t feel like life. They have to be random and inevitable.
--Writers have PhD’s in complaining.

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