Sorry I lapsed in my reports - between looking for employment, finding necessities and trying to take in a few readings and street festivals and such, I've been quite busy. I think I am going to start reporting on the authors and readings as well. Some have been stunningly brilliant and others not so dazzling; I also went to a play reading too, which was great fun and quite interesting.
Anyhow, due to lack of time, I'm going to abbreviate the next three sessions and just focus on the main points.
Sheri Joseph: "Have You Got a Novel or Not?"
Looking over my notes, I can say I got a lot of information regarding the novel vs the short story. Simple things like experience vs. moment, marriage vs. sex, the world vs. a slice. She also talked about "shaping" the elements that create a successful novel.
I loved these two particular bits she shared:
a) "Shine a light, then deepen the dark." [My apologies because I believe she credited that saying with someone in particular, but I didn't get it]
b) Determine the signature of the story (as opposed to even the elevator pitch or synopsis). This is the basis of what drives the story. Even though there may be stopping points along the way, the driving force that determines where it actually ends - "the address of the destination, even though we make many detours and stops" sort of thing. Very similar to thinking about "what the character wants and what happens on her way to get there."
Sad to say, however, I'm still not fully sure about determining which I have: novel or story, and that's OK. I think the main point she was making was that you should write what you want to read, the topic/theme/story that obsesses you, and in that manner, the novel will begin to unfold as such. She also emphasized the importance of that opening in terms of setting up the entire story to unfold.
Side note: I have a piece coming up in Right Hand Pointing - August issue.
It's a piece I wrote using pointers on detail from the Rishi Reddi workshop!
The title of Ellen Litman's workshop was "Shaping a Short Story Collection." In many of the community workshops I'm in, this is a very hot topic. And the answer is truly however you want. Successful collections (including the currently popular novel-in-stories) have been arranged according to theme, setting, a group of people (race or culture), recurring characters, and stylistically sorted stories.
The most outstanding points she shared (at least for me) were to:
a) begin and end with strongest stories
b) develop an arc according to whichever unity ties them together
We went into detail of the connections, disparities and contrasts of the stories in Jumpha Larhiri's "Interpreter of Maladies" and analyzed the arc of the collection.
Jamie Cat Callan was a delightful presenter. She is the creator of the Writer's Toolbox, which I loved. We did a couple of exercises using these tools, and whether in a block or just needing help to get started, this is a great inexpensive set to get your mind going.
She also discussed some different structures of short stories, which really was great for me. I enjoyed learning different ways of thinking of developing the story (tacking, Aristotlean, Native American). It really helped to expand my mindset. Sometimes I let the left brain control too much and get pigeonholed into thinking there's only one way to tell a story.
Be sure to keep track of Tuesday Shorts. We are collecting pieces from the issue to be featured in a special section of Opium.print #6!!! Get your micro in print, boys and girls!