Tuesday, June 17, 2008

the writing bug.

On Sunday, some girlfriends and I had a great big brunch together. Heuvos Rancheros, Shrimp and Grits, Crab Cakes, poached eggs and warm corn pudding – all these plates of heavenly-breakfast-manna being passed from mouth to mouth. After we placed our order, I had the pleasure of telling the young waiter, “We’re all going to see Sex and the City after this,” just to see his reaction. He got a little embarrassed and stuttered out, “Really?” I blurted, “Just kidding.” We all busted out laughing.

What the five of us did do after brunch is head over to a.’s house for a mini-marathon writing workshop. We each shared a work-in-progress. The person sharing would read her piece aloud. Then we each took time to review it silently. After, we let the person know what had grabbed us in the work, what we felt its strengths were, and how we thought it could be made stronger, clearer, etc.

I shared a short story, and the feedback was so useful that I spent the whole day yesterday revising like a mad woman. I’ve been feeling a fair amount of school angst, so the usefulness of people’s comments eased my anxiety. It’s going to be a really wonderful gift to receive much-needed feedback and to critically read others’ work for the sake of offering feedback.

One of my favorite books is The Palace Thief, a collection of four long short stories by Ethan Canin. Lately my own short stories have been on the long side, which is an indicator that perhaps I am ready to tackle a novel. But in the meantime, I’m hoping to put together a collection that I can model, in part, after The Palace Thief. Maybe it will also have just four stories that work well together.

I am also brainstorming for the two freelance pieces I have going on. I’m so very conscious of my upcoming move that I am obsessed with the idea of writing one piece that feels like it is a quintessential Louisiana story, and one piece that is a quintessential Baton Rouge story. I guess I love this place.

The strands floating around in my head. One piece will be about the way that we live in Louisiana, intrinsically, with the water. The flooding in Iowa City has reminded me that, while we felt stunned by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, we also owned a degree of understanding toward the fact that we consciously coexist with this particular natural threat. The nation seemed so perplexed and disturbed by this conscious coexistence that it was interpreted as reckless nonchalance. We all become nonchalant toward those things we become used to. It’s not always the healthiest or most effective attitude, but it is human.

Fast forward to today. Iowa is just demonstration that no place is exempt from how massive and powerful nature is. We have chosen, in Louisiana, to inhabit the water, to adapt our lives to coastal marsh and bayou swamps, to the Mississippi and the great big Gulf of Mexico. There is a whole slew of historical circumstance that led to that decision and the ensuing culture. I’m interested in writing about what it means today, in the here and now, to live with the water. We still do it everyday.

As for Baton Rouge, my favorite and only red stick, I’m sad to say that I’m writing less romantically and more critically about a self-perpetuating predicament she is in. So close and yet so far. It’s the best way I can describe all of Baton Rouge’s potential, and all of the missed opportunities that result from poorly executing good ideas. Baton Rouge is like a thoroughly fabulous and unique piece of fabric, and Baton Rouge’s decision makers are like absolutely terrible designers and terrible seamstresses.

And now. I am off to write all about City Park in New Orleans.

It’s good to be in a writing frame of mind.

SONGS: Hey, Where is My Mind, La La Love You; The Pixies (I saw that I referenced them in the story I just revised. I took the reference out because it seemed so contrived. But I’ve been playing them ever since.)

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