>Thursday was full. It began with readings by scholars–Rachel Cantor, Amy Glynn Greacen, Jamie Poissant and Ken Urban–well attended by the conference. Jamie’s story featured a dog run over by a car, and Ken’s play continued that theme. It made be even more determined to re-think my plan to read from “Stonewall” next week–which is about a dead dog–and, since I have more time available to me than I thought–to go back to my original plan to read “In an Uncharted Country.” The readings were all very good.
Next came John Casey’s craft lecture, about “things,” the fact that in the early novels things were not featured prominently because there weren’t all that many things and what there were were commonly understood so that in novels no explanation was necessary. In the industrial revolution all that changed with Dickens, Zola and others and Casey cited extensively passages in Zola’s Germinal. Moving forward in time, he quoted from The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. The point seemed to be that you only need to explain how things work at the point when the reader needs to know. I think I would like to have explored the craft implications further, but there may still be time to discuss this with John, as we’ve really only just begun.
A reading by staff members followed: Erica Dawson, Daniel Groves and Kevin Wilson. All three were really wonderful. The story Kevin read, he told me later, is coming out in the Land Grant College Review–something to look out for.
Our workshop met in the afternoon. These things are always unpredictable. Two of us were being critiqued today and in the second hour we considered my story “Nanking Mansion.” I was generally pleased with the discussion and got good suggestions for revision, so I’m satisfied.
Alan Shapiro gave the 4:15 reading and Erin McGraw read at 8:15, after which there was the first of four open mic readings for conference participants who don’t have other opportunities to read. I remember when I was here two years ago being disappointed that more people didn’t attend, although it’s understandable since it runs from 9:30 to 11:00 pm. But a few people I knew were reading so I stayed and there were several very good pieces, so I was glad I did.
Tomorrow is another packed day . . .
>If it were me, I’d keep Stonewall and make a joke out of it, i.e. preface your reading with, “In keeping with this summer’s dead dog theme…” Or maybe not.
>In fact, truth be told, Nanking Mission received high praise from John Casey and Claire Messud, as well as 92% of workshop participants!
>You may be right, Mary; but I’m thinking even I’m tired of the dead dog thing now.
Thanks for saying so, Jim!