I have revised my writing and improved it, and I have revised it and gone to hell.
Years ago an instructor at a writer’s conference advised us not to show our work to our family. Family members, he pointed out, have already seen you naked. Join a writers’ group.
The instructor was wrong on one count: my husband very much liked the short story I’d submitted: it was partly autobiographical, set in a poor urban neighborhood, and there was a scene where a family walked its pet goat down the street. He recognized that scene.
When the instructor trashed the story in a private conference, I asked why I had been admitted to the workshop. I did not realize then that writers’ conferences are a big business. They are a place where one can learn to write, but more than one had been shocked by the instructor’s bluntness. He took us too seriously, and one can only hope at the next conference he loosened up.
He taught us to imitate his style. No adverbs were allowed, sentences had to be short and simple, and every story had to be quirky: my story “Suzanne’s” was set in an erotic bookshop, about a woman discontented (no!) with her life; there were drug dealers in another story; and in another a character had an affair with his sister-in-law.
Though the instructor was very good at spotting who would be published–a mystery writer, and a woman who wrote “issue” novels– he did not encourage anybody who wrote what I wanted to read. Somehow the writers I though very good were never heard of again.
I did not write much fiction after the conference because I had no idea who my new characters were. Quirky? They were quirky, but in retrospect I would have been better off writing for my own enjoyment about characters like myself. I wasn’t writing for publication, and I was shocked that my fellow students already wanted to know how to get published. Most of us needed to work on our writing.
And now, all these years later, I have thrown out almost everything I wrote.
Here are a few lines of an autobiographical novel in verse I started writing some years back, about my friend L, who died at age 48 of complications from diabetes, and me.
in our town
[when we were young].
nicked the lawn where we sat drinking coffee.
We caught one and said,
“What is this?”
We were supposed to be in math.
I hadn’t done homework since 1969.
We gathered pods and took them to the secretary’s office.
She smoked and shuffled papers.
She talked on the phone. She looked at us.
“We need to xerox these,” we said.
She absently waved us behind the gate.
She didn’t care.
She knew us well.
We were always in there for this or that.
We skipped class.
We stole the pink pad of passes from the office.
We were permanently excused from classes.
The college counselor called us into her office constantly.
We glued the xerox
onto someone’s locker.
We couldn’t stop laughing.
We liked the boy
whose locker we had adorned
with phallic art.
,,,,,!!!! NO IDEA WHAT IS NEXT, BECAUSE I STOPPED WRITING IT. VERSE IS NOT MY THING.
See you tomorrow with another blog.