Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Process Paper G1-4/Goddard

It’s with great pleasure that I submit packet the fourth. I’d also like to thank you again for our conversation a few days ago. Unfortunately, I did not get too much time to work on my first short critical paper. However, after our conversation I found plenty of time to work on a few revisions on my creative work. Something curious happened in the process. Don’t we always talk about the process? Well, as it turned out I decided I would spent a writing session revising “The Bicycle” thinking it would get me in the mood or at least the right headspace to rework the short critical paper. It got me in the right headspace for sure, and I’m pleased with the revisions I’m sending to you. Please know I listened to what you had to say, I thought about it, and I will continue to think about it.

First, let me give you a few words on my annotations. I think the reading of short stories this go around was a big help in the revision of these pieces of my manuscript. In a way, I tried to treat them like autonomous stories rather than smaller pieces of a whole. Obviously I read Steinbeck’s story first, and what a great place to start. I’ve always been a fan of Steinbeck, and to read a short story rather than a novel was interesting in itself. I read it a few times and once aloud to a friend, which was very cool. I did the same with “That Evening Sun,” and decided I won’t be reading Faulkner anytime too soon if I can help it. The Carver story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” was an intense read and prompted me to drink a little gin myself. After I wrote the annotation, I read the other stories in the collection and with great zeal. All three of these stories were firsts for me. I haven’t read a short story in a long time, and now I can’t really remember why I stopped.

The writing of the annotations was easier this go around. The Carver annotation was a little more difficult than the others were. At any rate, I am ahead on my reading; I read the Denis Johnson collection Jesus’s Son and Elephant Bangs Train by William Kotzwinkle, so please look forward to those annotations in packet 5.

During this packet period, Chris got the letter I wrote to him during our closing ceremony. The letter was cool, even though it was quickly written and a bit illegible.

Now onto Omma. I have a renewed sense of purpose in my work with Omma after our conversation. I know we spent most of our time talking about the critical writing, but I rethought a few things. The writing of this piece has been a challenge in that I’ve never shared pieces and parts as the writing is still going on.

You wanted to know how much of this story is autobiographical. Not too much. I lived around Ansbach when I was in the Army. I knew Ansbach pretty well in 1990-1992. Frau Gernhert is a composite of just about every German woman I knew. I had a neighbor, an older Swiss woman who talked to me occasionally. There was a real Frau Gernhert; I met her years later when my buddy Ryan had an internship in Cologne. I think her name was actually Gernhertkessler or something like that. The Ashling character is also a composite, although she is terribly underdeveloped as a character still. I really love this Ashling, and I want everyone else to love her too, so I’m still laboring with her a little. In the fall of 1996, I was back in German visiting friends. During that trip, I met an Irish girl named Ashling in a bar in Nurnberg. We had a very brief conversation and the only thing that made an impression on me was how long her tongue was. Omma is completely fabricated. Papa? I have an African acquaintance here in Denver who really does work in a kiosk. He sells gifts and watch batteries. Like every African I’ve met here, he is very intelligent, hard working, and worldly. It never ceases to amaze me how a person can be a lawyer or an engineer, speak seven or eight languages, and come to the United States to get a job selling junk to tourists, or feeding fat Americans hotdogs from a cart. My friend Todesa is from Senegal, and I see him probably once a week. His kiosk is down the pedestrian mall about five blocks from the restaurant where I work. Todesa and I speak in Spanish together, and I thought my accent was funny sounding. Therefore, my Papa character has a real face, and one I see often. In rehash, how much is this Omma story autobiographical? Not very much. Furthermore, I don’t want it to sound that way. As you can tell, I’ve been working on it more, and this whole revision, or rethinking or whatever we call it is working out for me.

I’m excited about beginning the fifth packet. I can’t believe it; this semester has really gone by fast. I think I’ve learned a few things, however knowing myself I won’t be able to tell you what it is I’ve learned for sometime to come.

One last thought… I see what you mean about these process papers. It’s candid. I feel like I ramble a little, and it is like a letter. When I was a teenager, I met a girl who lived in Alaska. We wrote at least a letter a week from Thanksgiving of 1986 until we lost touch sometime in early 1999. In the letters over those 12 years I always felt like I was rambling too, she rambled. However, in the rambling it must have been interesting enough to continue writing. In this day of e-mail, text messages, and free cellular minutes perhaps, we’ve lost the charm of a handwritten letter. I bring it up now only because I’m thinking about the new approach to that Charles Johnson critical paper. Write a letter to a character in the novel, that was a good suggestion.


Thanks Kyle for your time, and I look forward to your feedback and suggestions.

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