Thursday, February 8, 2007

Process Paper G1-1/Goddard

This process paper is the last step in the process of Packet number one. As interesting as it has been, I feel like I’m really still learning what it is I’m doing. I suppose the same can be said for life. Here it goes, packet one:
The residency treated me well. To say the least I felt very overwhelmed, as I told you during one of our meetings. As delightful as it was to hear the words of other writers and to start to form my work for the semester I was mired in the mechanics of how I would be able to complete the work once on my own. In fact the more I thought about it the more I just wanted to get things started. One afternoon during the residency I went to the used bookstore in Montpelier and bought a few books just to get the process going. In fact I’d already read one book before I left Vermont. The concern initially was the pace at which I read, it’s inconsistent. For example I read fifteen novels in December, however I was snowed in for most of the month and the novels were rather short. Along those lines, I’ve been reading novels for the past ten years solely for enjoyment. I did enjoy reading the novels I did for this packet period, I tried to think of the reading critically. The best I can say for the reading is I will be developing this critical, or close reading in subsequent weeks. The most exciting part of this reading list is the act of looking for them. I realize the internet or a new book store would ultimately be the easiest way to get my hands on these novels, but I’m having a great time frequenting the dozen or so used book stores here in Denver.
The critical writing, wow, what an experience it has been. I read through the examples, and still the nagging nervousness to just get started came over me. I feared my annotations were sounding like a book report. Even as a book report, what a feat in itself, since I haven’t written a book report since junior high, 20 years ago. Of course book reports in those days were often tricky because I never did bother to read the books. Don’t worry, I read these. I feel like my thoughts were not as focused in the first annotation as they could have been, and honestly I was a little unsure of what it was I was trying to convey. Not surprising the first one was the toughest one to write, which I’m sure is the case with everyone. They got a little easier to write after that first one, obviously because of practice, but also I was starting to think about things more as I read the second two.
The first short critical paper again was a strange process. I must have come up with about fifteen different ideas of what I wanted to explore. I was able to narrow it down to about four or five and even then it was way too much to think about. I put the paper on hold for a few days and thought about other things, boats mostly. The night before I got going on my piece I was telling a friend a story about my grandfather. He had been a fisherman, as many immigrants were in those days. He was not an educated man, but he was one of the smartest men I’ve ever known. His smartness came from plenty of hours in his youth working fishing boats with upwards of eleven men all speaking different languages. He would tell me about the sardines in San Francisco bay. He’d say they were so thick you could walk on them. I never believed him when I was young because I had never seen a sardine in either San Francisco or anywhere else on the west coast. It wasn’t until later I learned what he said was the truth. They had taken every last fish out of the water. The story he was most impressed with was one day they caught 250 ton of fish. He explained how it went, the whole night, two runs and two giant loads of sardines. “How much money did you make?” I asked him. “36 cents a ton.” I laughed, it didn’t make sense to me. But maybe 36 cents meant more in 1939. “And we split it 13 ways.” “What I asked, how many guys were on the boat?” asking I just kept giggling. He told me tall tales as a kid, and at the end of his life I didn’t blame him for embellishing the truth a little. “Twelve men and the boat got a share.” This statement took ten years to make sense to me. Never having to live and work on a boat myself I didn’t understand what it must take to keep a boat on the water. It didn’t make sense to me until I was thinking about this first short critical paper which I chose to use the Republic in Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage. That said, I enjoyed writing the paper the most of all the critical writing I did for this packet.
My creative work took a must different process. I used “So Etwas” as the spring board for my writing. As I told you the characters were not new. I wrote a little piece years ago called “Rain in a Foreign land” where Omma and Frau Gernhert first made an appearance. They were models of two women I knew when I lived in Germany in the early 90s. The Omma character is loosely based on a woman who I lived upstairs from. She was, of course not as old in real life as my counterpart is in the story. And Frau Gernhert is based on a woman my buddy lived with years later during an internship. The real life Frau Gernhert found me an odd sort a fellow who preferred not to use butter on my toast in the morning. I scribbled this small piece which was about four pages during a fiction writing workshop after a visit to Germany in 1996. I can tell you my time in Germany and my time in Ansbach specifically was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I often think about that time as a time when I still had a profound amount of innocence. That statement would have seemed odd at any other point in my life. By the time I got to Ansbach I was 18 years old, away from home at that point for nearly a year, and already a veteran of Desert Storm. Ansbach to me was all I ever wanted. I traveled and felt a certain freedom I had not known before and haven’t felt since. For years I thought of the eternal Ansbach, a place where I could feel certain feelings and think certain thoughts. Travels after those Ansbach days have proved to be exciting, yes, but always a little disappointing. It was a time of life. What a time it was.
I was speaking to Claire during the residency about Irish girls. I’d told her how I once knew an Irish girl. “And you let her get away?” she asked. Yes I let her get away, but truth is I ran away from her, she terrified me actually. When I told Claire her name was Ashling, Claire’s expression change. “Ashling means dream in Irish.” What a thought, what a meaning. I had met Ashling in a pub in Nurnberg Germany one night in August of 1996. I had not thought of her one bit since. I only knew this woman for twenty minutes, maybe. So, here I am, writing a piece about a foreigner, a child and someone with memory loss. I don’t really know what else to explain about the set up for this piece, but I started writing it.
As I work on it more and more I’m become more and more involved with it. Moreover, the more I write the more I want to write. At any rate, I have enclosed the first 25 pages of what I have written. I’m up to about fifty pages already and I’ve been working on it daily since the exercise you gave us in our group meeting.
Along with that, yes, I’m having fun and using my time to write something I hope will be well written, and entertaining to readers. It’s my sincere desire to write something anyone can relate too: the romance of a secret lover, the overbearing mother, living life confused and elated all at the same time.
I’ve been spending some time doing research with this story too, and it has also been gratifying. Looking at maps of the town I lived in so long ago has thought me how memory works. Since this piece is mostly fiction (Only locations are real) my memory of the place is very biased and horribly inaccurate at best. Another issue of course is my limited German. It’s been so many years and I never had any real formal training in the German language. The years between my residence in Germany and now I have endeavored to study and learn Spanish, as it is more useful to me where I live. On occasion while writing I’m seeing this Frau barking at the poor narrator and as German as she is I can hear her speaking Spanish.
The daily process has been going well. I’m still tuning my mode of work, and the time allotted to it. I get about forty-five minutes to an hour every morning before I go to work. It feels good to get up and write for a little while, however it has made work unbearable, all I really want to do is get home to resume writing. I always start off with a little work with Omma. The creative work gets attention everyday, which is something I haven’t been able to focus on in several years.
I’m experience some difficulties in the work too, namely diction errors and some syntax. In reading through the first 25 pages I have found continuity discrepancies and holes in thought. Some of the transitions have been difficult too. And I’m a little afraid that the story isn’t really going anywhere. As I do rewrites I often get a little upset and disappointed in the work itself. However, I’m using it to my advantage, I think. When I get stuck I generally leave the part I’m stuck on and go directly to the bottom on the piece and continue to write new material. The hope is of course all will make better sense further on in the story. Well, we’ll see. At this early point in this work I am ready to engage in all critiques and suggestions you might have.
The last of my daily activities is the reading. I get to read for about an hour every work day. On non-work days I do read a little longer. Fortunately I live with a good friend who is also working full time and also in Grad school. So we have a pretty good working relationship. He has been supportive on me, and I think I’m doing right by him too. So that hour I get after work is generally spent at the kitchen table, he’s at the table too and we’ve been working independently together.

So far Kyle, I think you were right when you told me I’m in the right place. I’ve been excited lately about the studies and the work and the Goddard experience as a whole. More importantly I am extremely optimistic about the future with this process and excited to see where I go. Thanks for your time.

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