Somehow Perfect

Less is the New More

Wed, 10/10/2007 - 7:07am

I love my life. 

The above photo is a thought someone outside of San Francisco General Hospital carved into the pavement. What could be better? I'd been at the hospital to pay a visit. It's an intense place. Perhaps the sentiment this message carries is more profound in this form and context (the very particular setting). Either way, I can't stop pondering it and thinking of ways in which it may or may not apply to the character I'm working on.  

For a writing exercise: have your character leave SF General Hospital or another hospital like it. (SF General serves those with and without insurance, homes, and livelihoods. Some of the top physicians in the world are treating homeless drug addicts and the flown-in insured who have sought out the specialist). Make sure that whatever news they've just received at the hospital about themselves or someone they love changes their life forever. Have them come upon some wet cement. Have your character pick up a stick and carve a phrase into the pavement (it does NOT need to "relate" directly to the news they've just heard). Follow your character through several scenes where the sentiment of the phrase is illuminated, both directly and indirectly. Are there organic opportunities for humor? Irony? Make sure at lease one of your scenes contradicts the sentiment carried in the phrase. (In the story for the above phrase, the character would find themselves in at least one situation where "More" is More).  

Let's hope that "Less is the New More" is true when it comes to Blog entries. The skinny on the skinny nature of New Entries is that I've been so out there doing that I haven't had as much time to be in here reflecting. 

I LOVE the classes I'm teaching this semester. Teaching the Craft of Fiction is utterly liberating. I'm surrounded my 35 student minds who are so articulate in expressing how the writers we study are using concrete observable tools in order to achieve their art. Not at all in a lit-class-way, but in a working-writers way. It's impossible to stay stuck in my own work when I'm always hearing about the craft choices writers make to turn their vision into art. Last week we talked about Plot (one of the toughest subjects to explore in literary fiction) and a quietly thrilling story called "If a Stranger Approaches You About Carrying A Foreign Object With You Onto A Plane..." by Laura Kasischke. A story that starts off like a fairy tale and pulls us into the mind of a young woman asked by a stranger to do her a favor...It's in the 2007 Pushcart and you can read it online on Ploughshares website. (Ploushshares is always edited by a guest editor, so it's never the same. That's why it's one of my favorites). 

Characterization continues to thrill (that's the name of the second undergrad class I teach). There, too, brilliant minds looking at how writers are using every single imaginable thing to spark life into their characters, making them irresistible, contradictory, and compelling. For each story or novel we read, students come up with a writing prompt like the one above to throw at their character. Each week there's thirty new opportunities for this community of artists to deepen and complicate (in the good way) their writing. What a thing to witness.

Fourteen Hills, the literary magazine at State for which I'm the faculty adviser is revving up for a fund raiser, details of which will follow as they're confirmed. We're hoping to do a reading with two dynamite writers who've also been published in the journal: Kim Addonizio and Nona Caspers. Both have new books out and both have such stage presence (not all great writers are great readers. But these two are both double-threats. In fact, Nona sometimes even sings...which would make her a literary triple-threat). Follow the links and buy their books. You won't be sorry. 

All of these classes make me want to run home and write. Which is good, since I'm under deadline. In addition to the reading series for the grant, I'm really hoping to get a first draft of my novel-in-progress completed by the end of January. 

I hope to see y'all out at LitQuake this week and weekend. I'll be reading at LitCrawl (see below). For that reading, I may just have to share my character Janis' epiphany about her ultimate life goal. I won't give it away, but it involves eggs. 

The Poetry Center reading is coming up soon, too. More on that as it comes closer. 

Keep Writing (or whatever it is that you love to do) & Keep the Faith.

More soon. 

MCD