Does anyone know how to spell “workshopping?” It seems to me that 1) this needs to be a word, since “workshop” is used as a verb all the time, at least in MFA programs, at least by me; and 2) there is no other logical way to spell it. Is there? But it doesn’t matter where I type it–Word, Open Office, Firefox–it always gets the squiggly red line.
Anyway. I’m well into the spring semester at this point, and the work is piling up–though nothing “big” has been due yet. Still feel like I’m shaking off “break mode.”
I have been revising a short story I wrote last semester, and I am stuck. (Stuck, actually, at the same place I last blogged about.) So I have been going through the feedback I got from my workshop classmates, their notes in hand and Open Office document open. Ultimately, these notes don’t amount to big changes (at least not so far). Some feedback I dismiss entirely, because it is clear the reader didn’t “get” my story … whether because of different aesthetic tastes, or for other reasons. And that is an important part of workshop: knowing what to listen to, and what to forget. Any workshop ought to help a writer accomplish their aims–perhaps find out what those aims are. Advice that ignores or misses that is not of any use whatsoever. (As good old Flannery would say, “In short, I am amenable to criticism but only within the sphere of what I am trying to do; I will not be persuaded to do otherwise.”)
But even feedback from those who don’t appreciate your story–who, when they offer advice, are trying to make it into something else entirely–gives you another angle at which to view your story, things to consider you wouldn’t otherwise see. And I love reading these letters Fiona made us write each other, which some people wrote mostly as critiques but others just as reactions. After all, stories are written to be read. And they become different stories for different readers. That is the beauty of it; the control and complete loss of control a writer has over her own words. I like hearing how people took it, even if they didn’t get it; even if they hated it. (Yes, one person DID tell me she hated it.)
So we are blogging as part of my fiction workshop this semester with Cathy Day! Possibly some of those posts will make it over here.
I’m not sure yet how far this blog will venture away from “matters more bookish than not,” but I am willing to let it venture other thoughtful places.
I just finished Monkeys by Susan Minot. A good book. I started it yesterday, and finished it this afternoon, much to the detriment of my to-do list. It’s one of those books where there’s more than what you take in on a first read, even if you’re trying to be a perceptive reader. The prose is very spare, which works beautifully, as she is writing about intense emotions. I think I will have to come back to this one again.