Monday, August 20, 2007

Process Paper G2-1/Goddard


Annotation #1: Henry Miller
Annotation #2: James M. Cain
Annotation #3: Horacio Quiroga

Second Short Critical Paper: Kotzwinkle’s Elephants

Creative Work: From Ansbach to Color
Spider Blankets and the Man from Nairobi
World’s Of Wurzburg

Life here in Denver is returning to a new kind of normal. I spent a lucrative week at the residency. I must admit now, I was feeling shell-shocked in many ways when I was there. I loathe the summer, and I will not be lamenting the end of it. By the time the residency began, I was feeling beat down by the heat, too much work at the saloon, which provides a living for me but little else, and my wits end with my writing and the process as it were. During my time in Vermont, I thought mostly about the future and how I would begin things again once at home. In one of our conversations we talked about the amount of time was I working each week. I could tell from your expression a level of concern, which I suppose prompted a revision of many things. You know as well as I do how much I hate to revise things I’ve written, well you can imagine the distaste I was feeling when I thought about how to revise my life. I spent the two weeks following the residency touring Montreal, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Maine, and Massachusetts. I figured a little time away from life would help me to think through things, a chance to clear my head. Well, I suppose the head clearing came in Moncton, New Brunswick when I had to buy a winter coat, and I did it smiling knowing it was well over 95 degrees here at home. As I buttoned up the coat, I realized many things; first, I only hate the heat of summer because of trauma in the past, all of which is over now. Second, the question of my use of time is solely dependant on priorities and my priorities are easy assembled when I think about what my values are. By the time I got on the ferry from Wood Island, PEI I had an accurate idea of what needed to happen, and what it was I needed to do.
Mechanically speaking, I have cut my hours at work in half, I no longer train the young waiters, I don’t work the bar anymore, and I don’t work double shifts. Now, work takes up four to six nights a week, which leaves my mornings free. Mornings, traditionally speaking are clearer, more fluid times for me. Rather than working ten to fifteen hours a week on schoolwork, I’m working four to five hours a day six days a week. I hope you’ll be able to see a difference. Now, I feel like I’m getting more time to revise what I have written before I send it to you. Although I don’t think I’m exactly where I need to be, I know I have made progress from last semester. I spent time rereading last semester’s work, and I feel like I’m where I need to be, on the path to better writing, clearer thinking, and passionate action. In this regard, I feel like I’ve done more work this semester, already, than all of last semester.

Annotations: They are becoming fun to write. The remedial reading of stylebooks and “How to” has helped me. Mechanics, as well as confidence are becoming part of my thinking and consideration of this process. I think the annotations in this first packet are an improvement, and I hope to gain this feeling of improvement in subsequent packets. Both the Henry Miller and James M. Cain were lighter reads than I am generally accustomed to, but stylistically I enjoyed both as complex. The short story “The Dead Man” was more difficult. Developing thoughts emerged only after I read the story a dozen times. Short, short stories like this one continue to baffle me, and my only thought is this: It has to take less time to write a developed story of 150,000 words than a story of 1,500.

The second short critical paper was such a joy to contemplate, design, draft, write, and believe it or not, a joy to rewrite. I have become such a fan of William Kotzwinkle, and Elephants. In the process of this second paper, I see the problems I had with the first one. I knew what I was getting into with this second paper, and I knew what to expect not only from a reader, but from myself. If that isn’t growth, I don’t know what is. I believe it is a tight paper, if you see any bolts that need tightening, well, nuts!

The creative work. I was at my wits end with this piece sometime before the last packet. At the residency, I wanted nothing to do with it ever again. Reluctantly, I agreed to continue work, rework, vision, and revision on it, but I didn’t believe in it with my heart. When I got home, and reorganized my life, I suddenly had plenty of time to write; even then, I had no vision on the manuscript. Instead, I decided to write something else. Something else became two something elses… “Mascaras Y Munecas” and “The Cataract” both of which were longer than the initial Omma piece of last semester. There was something liberating in writing not one 100 plus story, but 2. However, neither of which were what I committed to write. Perhaps I’ll share them with you someday, but not any time too soon. By the end of “The Cataract,” my main character fell into a discussion of orange, by the end of his discussion I found a natural end to that story. Likewise, I found the beginning of the piece I should be working on. The title emerged instantly “From Ansbach to Color.”
There was absolutely nowhere for me to go with the manuscript of last semester. I already wrote the end of the story. Back-story? Text and subtext? Write the unseen? All great titles for workshops, how did they relate to my story, Carmichael’s story? I don’t know, but I am thinking about it. What you are about to read is all new material. There is more new material to come before I’ll be able to pick up with what was written last semester. I can say this I have found a few worthwhile ingredients to make the process easier and more meaningful. I’ve been asking questions of myself, and on the page I’ve been asking questions of my characters. I’ve been thinking about reading in a different way too, what leads from this point to the next, and mechanically looking at what I’ve been reading superimposed on what I’m writing is helping me to see what’s on my page more objectively. With confidence I can say I am more excited about this project than ever, and I can’t wait to tell this story.

I hope all is well with you and I eagerly await your response.

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