Day 9: Low point

Stan Rubin and Elea Carey read in the morning. 🙂

I was up for workshop, and it’s hard for me to write about this without bitching and moaning and trying to explain or justify my work. In part, I blame the piece I chose to submit. My first piece of fiction that I’ve never been satisfied with, but just can’t give up on. It’s been kicking around for sixteen years. Ugh.
That wasn’t everything though. I knew the piece needed work–that’s why I submitted it. And, I can take criticism. In gulps, in fact. Our facilitator had the piece read round-robin one paragraph at at time, which makes for an awkward read–breaks up dialogue, etc. I don’t have anything against reading aloud, but in this situation where there is a limited amount of time for each piece, this method wastes a lot of time. In my writer’s group we read our work aloud, but we are close and there’s a page limit and no time limit–and the author reads the whole thing. So, right away, I felt defensive. Then, once the story had been exposed to all, the remainder of the workshop was focused entirely on what was wrong with the piece. I can take criticism, but I’m no robot. This unnerved me.
Then, at the end, the facilitator didn’t want to take “thanks, I have no questions”. He wanted me to talk about the piece, which in my experience usually ends up as the author justifying why this was or what they intended. Sometimes there are good questions to ask. I didn’t have anything. Frankly, as I told the workshop, I’d already gotten more feedback than I could probably handle. Also, at that point, I didn’t really trust that the group was there to support me, so why spill my guts to them at the end? To me, it felt like a morbid request. All of this is entirely the responsibility of the facilitator.
I held all this in through lunch and a panel of people explaining about their outside experience, a requirement of the program that though I don’t have to do yet, I should begin thinking about it. Then, when my buddies Natalie and Kristina dropped me at my room (we were all taking a break to decompress before meeting up for dinner), it hit me. I put on my headphones, went for a walk, and just started balling. This combination of Sunday jazz on KPLU and catharsis was just what I needed to begin to see what good I could find in my experience.
Workshops that don’t begin by looking at what is working in a piece are inhumane. Tell me to toughen up if you want, but that’s what I believe to be true. That is what sets a tone of constructiveness in a group. This translates over to written comments on work as well.
I did finally manage to sort through all this and think about how to better get across what it was I was trying to get at in my story and how that’d work best. I’m skipping the morning lecture this morning to work on some revision.
We ate Mexican for dinner. A margarita. A good cry. I’m ready to move on.
The River and Sound Review was the event of the evening. I don’t know much about this program, but they’re a radio show…soon to be a literary magazine…follow the link to check them out. I’ll follow you.


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