Saturday, June 25, 2011

Crossing Fingers!

The title refers to hoping like heck I get up on time tomorrow so I can meet Unkyl and Aunt Bonny for breakfast at their house and head to church with them. My suitcase, backpack, and shoes are all packed up in the car. As soon as I finish here, the laptop goes in the bag beside my purse and is ready to go. In the morning, pack up the alarm clock, sleeping bag, Small Fry, grab the pillow and charge! Well, after a shower and taking the toiletries bag. First things first...

I tried valiantly to stay awake through the craft talks today. Not because they were boring, the first one was actually quite riveting and the second one was interesting. The managing editor from Tin House magazine came to tell us about how it works. Of course, working humbly as I do in a press myself, I knew a little more than half of what he said already. I KNEW I should have opted for a nap. Still, I went because going meant I had attended every single craft talk, and when my friends told me that I just couldn't not go even though I didn't really want to.

The first talk today was about dialogue. Laura Hendrie gave us a story by Anton Chekhov to read called 'The Helpmate'. She outlined a few passages in there to show us what she called 'The ten conundrums of dialogue'. Although, looking at my notes, I don't know that we actually got to all ten. But all residency long, the faculty and especially Marvin Bell have been talking about poetry as a dance. Laura gave us a picture of a bunch of people dancing together, presumabley to the same song, yet all of them were doing different things. She explained that the only rule for dialogue is that there really isn't any rule. The best things to avoid are:
  • Don't use dialogue just to explain plot, actions, etc.
  • Don't use dialogue to pass the reader from block to block of beautiful prose
  • Don't force your dialogue. The characters are people. If you step back and do not consciously approach your story wanting to make your characters bend to your idea of the story, they will surprise you with the things they do and say.
She told us that once, she wanted to study dialogue for some of her stories, so she decided to go to restaurants and different places and listen to what people actually said. She figured it would be a little boring, but it seemed like necessary research. The very first booth she sat behind, there were two women. One said "I've just been diagnosed with stage four cancer." Her friend said "My father died of cancer" and the two of them went on, never really connecting in their dialogue. They weren't sharing a story with one another, they each were telling their own stories to one another not really listening but each hoping the other would. There was a separation between their dialogue.

After that experiment, Laura decided to write down everything she said aloud on a piece of paper for a day. She said it was one of the most incredibly boring things she could have done. The results were interesting, however, because of what she noticed. She told us she had gone into a doctor's office for something or other, and the TV was up ridiculously loud. She wanted to ask whoever was watching it to turn it down. It was annoying her horribly, and the internal thoughts she was having were "I want her to turn it down, I want to throw it through the window, I can't even think in here" and what she said was "I didn't know (whatever it was about) was on Oprah." She never actually said what she really wanted to say. And the internal dialogues she had with herself never seemed to make it to the page. She always said the most innocuous or roundabout thing.

In the story, we can't always get a character's inner dialogue. There are two authors to read who are sort of masters of letting you feel what is behind the dialogue however, Raymond Carver and Anton Chekhov. These two let you see the progression, the feeling, the process of the character's thoughts in their language. That is what good dialogue should do. It should be careful, spontaneous, and never forced.

That's all I remember off the top of my head, but I think that's pretty good! lol. Then we had the New Student meeting to figure out what is going to be required of us this semester. We've been over most of it, but I took some more notes just in case. I definitely have my work cut out for me. I better enjoy the time between now and Friday

Today we also could sign up to take a class. I chose Peter Sears' Villanelle class of course. It was pretty neat. He showed us the inspiration for a villanelle he had written. Starting with the newspaper article he read, to the plain, rough draft, to the two lines he had chosen for the refrains, and then he actually had us write in the lines he had written in next as he read them to us. Then some of the graduating students read other villanelles, he handed sheets out to us with the formal structure laid out on them, and told us to try and write one. Mine surprised me a bit. I need to look at it and revise it a bit, but I got a whole rough draft down. Some others did too, some did not finish. He gave us the first, second, and third drafts of another villanelle he had written and encouraged us to work on ours, or to try and write new ones. Then he had me read my Villanelle that I brought with me to the class and I did. No butterflies! Probably because I sat up front with my back to all of them so I couldn't see them looking at me. Still, I'll take what I can get! lol.

Today was the graduation ceremony. My friends and I went just to see what it was like, and I'd been talking to some of the graduating students over the residency and they were nice to me so I figured I'd support them. It was really interesting. Instead of Pomp and Circumstance or anything, they had a man playing the bagpipes who led the students and faculty in and out. Jan, the girl who keeps saying I'm stalking her because we show up at all the same places together, gave the student address. Marvin Bell gave the commencement address. It was quite good. I took some pictures, I don't know how many I'll keep, but it was fun.

After that, my friends Chris and Cynthia and I took a couple of pictures, then Chris and I went to the MFA office and took pictures in front of the sign just for fun. A couple of them turned out really well :)

They had a banquet after graduation for everybody since it was the last night. They had wine and food and dancing. And yes, I had a couple teaspoons of wine. I swear, I sipped at that dang thing for two hours and there was never any less wine in the glass. I think someone was refilling it when I wasn't looking. And then, when I told Cynthia that? The next time I turned away she refilled it. Sigh. I gave up. At the dinner, one of the girls who had been in the Villanelle class with us came up and said she liked my 'Chicken Poem'. A few of the graduating students were calling me the chicken poet after my reading. I wonder if it'll stick.

Ok, I'm off to bed now. I'll be home in a few days. I miss you all like crazy!!

~Hannah Mae

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