Our workshop met yesterday with Kevin McIlvoy. We workshopped my story “Savage Source” which I re-read the day before and was very unhappy with. But the structure he follows made this a very positive experience–the group focused first on the story’s strengths–more than I’d realized–before identifying the main thing about it that wasn’t working: the ending. And with specific suggestions for revision (both during workshop and in the conference I had with Mac), I’m truly excited to tackle this much-revised story. Mac also gave me a suggestion for a “hub” story for my collection, pulling a number of the main characters from other stories into one place and adopting an omniscient POV, something I haven’t done before, and I’m excited to give that a try too. Mac is terrific. (We also workshopped stories by Chris Knapp and Andy Hallman that were filled with good work, so the whole session was very nice.)
I didn’t attend the nature trail walk with John Elder since I did that last year (enjoying it very much). But in the afternoon I went to a craft class with Laila Lalami. It was a wonderful discussion of the rendering of foreign culture and language in work written in English. It was logical and interesting and fun, and Laila was extremely well-prepared and seemed quite comfortable.
Then we had the reading with fellow Emily Raboteau (she read an essay that will be in Transitions, and a story that appeared in Gettysburg Review) and Bill Kittredge. Bill read from his novel that’s coming out in October, a section that sounded like Ivan Doig, or even Wallace Stegner a little. It should be interesting to see it when it comes out.
There was a sudden rain storm so the outdoor book signing/reception was moved to the Barn (poor Mary, poor social staff!) But it was a nice event and I had books signed by Mac McIlvoy, Toni Nelson, Peter Orner, Josip Novakovich and Sigrid Nunez. I may track down a couple of other folks before the week is over.
After dinner we had another reading. Ted Conover read from the article “Capitalist Roaders” that appeared in the Sunday NYT Magazine recently (if you search here you’ll find a mention of that piece, and a photo that I lifted from the article because it showed the street right in front of the hotel where I usually stay). I guess he’s turning it into a book, but I wasn’t clear on that. The reading made me feel uncomfortable because I thought the reader/audience was being asked to laugh at something the Chinese themselves do not think funny, that is, to laugh at the Chinese. Isn’t that condescending? Ted was followed by Helena Maria Viramontes reading from her new (forthcoming) novel.
Then there was the staff reading. This was terrific and really fun. Among others, Mary Akers read from her story “Thunderstones”. She did a great job (she only got 4 minutes) and read a very funny section that the audience loved. The picture above is of Mary with Paul Yoon, who also read.
A long day!