Tuesday night I attended the last class in the summer cycle of my writing workshop. One person was not present for critiquing (which makes me wonder, real time conflict or resistance to listening to criticism? But I digress) and the other person was.
I must say I have never delved so much into another person’s work as deeply as I have in this workshop at FDCAC. What sets my instructor, Laura Pegram, apart from the other instructors I’ve had is her devotion and compassion for illustrating what sets mediocre stories apart from exceptionally written stories by respected authors in the writing world.
I read authors like Edward P. Jones, Louise Erdrich, and Edwidge Danticat – all authors I’ve never heard of until this workshop. The introduction to different authors and styles aided my voyage to finding my voice on the page. I was exposed to the heavyweights in most of my classes like Mary Gaitskill, Margaret Atwood, John Cheever, Junot Diaz, ZZ Packer, and so on; this workshop exposed me to more authors of color that are probably well-known in literary circles but not familiar to me.
Apart from a fantastic instructor, my classmates provided very helpful and supportive feedback that I will use during my revision process. They were present in class, constructive comments, and most importantly, contributed useful suggestions when revising my story. Not just suggestions like, “If I would have written this, I would have included this…” but more on the lines of, “Perhaps a scene illustrating why she was feeling like this in the first place would make the end result clearer to the reader.”
I wish every writing workshop was like this and every instructor was like Laura! I cannot wait to take another workshop next month. FDCAC is what’s up! Gotham, take notes.
Guilty as charged! This is my summer obsession. Apart from the fact I love dancing, I also love watching this show. Watching it motivates me to work harder and better at my craft.
When Nigel, Mia, and Adam critique those dancers on their technique, it’s as if they are providing feedback to me. Most of the time I agree and sometimes I disagree. But either way, I’m participating actively because I’m always thinking of myself and how I would benefit from critical feedback as these judges provide.
With only eight dancers left, I have my favorites (Alex, Jose, Kent) and I connect more with Jose because I feel like him. I got the passion, the drive, the technique I’m still learning, and I’m willing to try new things with my writing all the time. I’m always learning something new – even if the result doesn’t always work out.
Dancing I do for fun, but writing is my passion. When I watch this show, I’m watching myself compete and I am excited about my future.
I see writing everywhere! Does this mean I’m a writer, yet?
I’ve mentioned this before (or maybe I haven’t) but I think the most important thing a writer should do prior to sending out his or her manuscript to a literary agent is have a stranger or a group of strangers read it.
I can’t say how much I’ve read manuscripts chockfull of clichés. C’mon writers! If you are going to take writing seriously, take your writing seriously. Don’t half-ass it! I want every writer to find success in their own way (depending on how you measure success) but please do Everything you can to be on point!
I have my own writing that I know I need to edit and have the message/theme clear for the reading audience. I know I’m not going to send out a submission without someone that’s not related to me or even a friend read. Why? The friend (unless a writer friend that is great at providing constructive criticism) will only say good things. Let’s take this for real, even if the criticism is for your own development as a writer.
Clichés, folks? Really? I’m not an agent (yet, who knows?) but if there’s any knowledge I’d like to impart to you (coming from a writer like yours truly) is to edit, have lay people read it, and have people who read incessantly read your work because they are examples of your audience, no matter what genre they read. If the story works, great. If the writing does not work, then try again.
Writing is about creating worlds, stories, connecting to folks, and whatever you want it to mean. Editing is also a part of writing that must be included to be clear and precise about your intention.
I only want the best for everyone out there trying to make their writing career happen. I’m doing this myself.
When you read your own work, sometimes you don’t notice what’s in front of you like typos and clichés.
In short, please please please workshop your work or join a writing group (meetup.com has a lot of those) and make your writing career happen!
Happy writing to all!
Can someone make this process into a science? The constant double checking of materials is never ending and the personal statements are all over the place. Why can’t graduate schools use the common application the way it was for some undergraduate applications?
I thought to myself, “Why is this so frakking stressful? I didn’t do any of this when I applied to college the first time around.” Then I remembered – my school adviser mailed all of my applications off. I didn’t do all this administrative work before and I hate it now.
Today, I spent the whole day visiting my school websites to figure out their personal statement requirements. The good thing is, most of them want a 200-500 count personal statement while only two ask for a 2-5 page minimum. Why can’t they all ask for uniform personal statements? The most important part of the application is my work of art anyway.
But I do have to say that the binder I allotted for all my application materials has significantly helped me through this. I write a note on each MFA checklist per school and stickers on the schools that accept online personal statements, which makes my life a whole lot easier when I mail out supplemental materials like the manuscript.
As for my manuscript, reading the speakeasy forums on the Poets and Writers website has significantly silenced any self-doubt that was constantly chatting in my head during this process. I don’t know if the doubt sprung from being critiqued by a friend who was trying to help that shot my ego into bits; being unemployed due to department lay-offs; having an interview for a publishing intern position and unsure if publishing is even something I genuinely imagine myself working in; or having cabin fever because all I’ve been doing is editing my manuscript for this application. For the past week, I was pregnant with dread, self-doubt, and anxiety. I always feel this way when my work is critiqued by a friend (but I never feel this way after a writing workshop critique) and when I’m about to embark on a journey that is bigger than me.
This Saturday, I attended a Write it Right! workshop administered by the Gotham Writer’s Workshop. This class focused on the functions of basic grammar starting with the noun and ending with bracket usage. The last hour of the class is a little fuzzy because I had stopped paying attention after semicolon usage. The class was very helpful; I feel confident and comfortable using the semicolon and comma in most sentences, like this one. In this class, the people in attendance were from all walks of life – more older than younger actually. One girl mentioned she was accepted into the Sarah Lawrence program and had to withdraw because it was so intense. My hypersensitive emotional state during this process was stimulated when she mentioned her experience; am I ready to dedicate my full attention to writing in an MFA program? After reading the speakeasy forum, I have the confidence to answer this question with a simple: Bring it on!
Writers have different experiences when they obtain their MFA degree. If and when I am accepted, the only thing I am certain of is that I’ll be surrounded by writers that can help me shape my writing. I’m taking my writing seriously for the first time in my life. It’s now or never.