Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Clarion West Narrative: some tidbits

Clarion West students work to build collegiality, but the workshop tone is set by the instructor.

Case in point: Week One

Michael Bishop was wonderful, a pro. Right out of the gate, he launched into an enlightening lecture on the evils of passive voice and tired phrases, and discussed the useful concept of the "object correlative." During week one, it was clear that Bishop expected us to be familiar with more than just work in our chosen genre. We discussed James Joyce, Eliot, and Robert Hass. We talked about Flannery O'Connor and characterization, "say-able" dialogue and careful prose. And we wrote our butts off, with a different short piece due each day on a particular theme. The extraordinary part, one I dearly loved, was the fact that the stories were turned in anonymously, and Bishop read them aloud for us to critique.

The quality of those early stories blew me away. I had found myself in the company of some brilliant people. Good place to be to grow as a writer! In this process, Bishop taught us how to workshop stories without blasting authors. It set a marvelous tone for the weeks to come. Bishop himself was positive and humorous, a delightful guy.

On Tuesday, we attended a reading at the UW Bookstore where he read from a recent anthology he edited entitled Cross of Centuries. His selection was a fabulous re-imagining of Christ as a woman. Definitely worth the read.

2 comments:

JohnR said...

So true, that the instructor set the tone. The admins have that down!

I'm so glad you captured this--even in this short space, there are things that I didn't get down and would've forgotten completely.

I loved, loved, loved Michael. I wanted to adopt him as my writer-dad. That said, I thought Week One was one of the most stressful, even without critiques, though, because of the daily deadlines. Michael was caring, but he was also a harsh taskmaster!

Looking forward to your posts. I spent my writing time working on one, but mine are looooong. Probably too long for blogdom. :)

Utopiana said...

Some are long, but highly informative and entertaining! I look forward to your posts, too.