CSU Summer Arts: Writing the Memoir Part II
Doug Rice, coordinator of CSU Summer Arts, chose a fine selection of visiting writers to speak to our class. Not only did each bring a different perspective, each was inspiring and shared a great deal of knowledge.
Steven Church, professor of English at CSU Fresno, and author of The Guinness Book of Me, was the first writer to work with our class. He’s an editor of The Normal School, a new publication from CSU Fresno. During his reading, he read several excerpts from his books and personal essays. He taught for about a week, but frequented The Red Wave.
Favorite Steve Church moment: his reading, imagining standing at the bottom of a giant straw. The following are parts of his lectures as well as things to think about.
- Writing towards something, it is greater than itself.
- Everything is going towards the ontological core, rhythmic intensity rather than intention.
- Penumbra – Shadow of a shadow. Start in the bright center and move out into the penumbra.
- Amplify the tension of the scene.
- Syntax matters:This is just a film. OR This is a just film./ After eating, Joe cut the cake. OR After eating Joe, cut the cake.
Carole Maso, author of Break Every Rule and Beauty is Convulsive (to name a few of her books) also lectured in Writing the Memoir. After class on some nights, she would with us on a spread out blanket and talk about writing and life. Maso is a professor of English at Brown University.
Favorite Carole Maso moment: After her reading, they were out of her book, “Break Every Rule.” She gave me the copy she read from during her reading. The following are some of her writer’s tips and inspirations.
- Find a place you’re slightly unfamiliar with, but comfortable in. Stay there for three hours and don’t move. Keep a notebook. Observe. Write things down. New writers don’t stay long enough.
- I’ve always gotten up. I’ve always looked away.
- Attempt to talk to your father in a way he can understand.
- There is no privileging in the writings.
- Respect all good work.
- The purpose is to dramatize the distances.
- Think of five moments to describe your laugh. Write about them, each in one paragraph.
I was lucky enough to have a one on one meeting with him. I gave him the opening chapter of my novel, which he enjoyed and thought I was off to a good start. He also recommended that I go around wearing gloves for awhile to get into my character’s head.
His lectures were very thought provoking and genius. He read a short story of supernatural erotica and I can’t explain how beautiful and powerful his images were–they were like orgasms in my ears. I can see why there is a such a huge cult following of his work.After his reading, I was ready to him write words all over my body with a silver sharpie pen. I swear, I went back to my dorm and dunked my head in the sink. No joke. I didn’t take any pictures of him because I knew his beauty could never be captured on film.
Favorite Bill Vollmann moment: I can’t choose one! Here are parts of his lecture:
- Writers, ask yourselves: Who are you? Who do you want to be and who do you want others to see you be? Who would you want to be?
- Sometimes there is no meaning and you have to say this in a meaningful way.
- When you are honest, you can expect to be liked for it. The important thing is to express who you are.
- Write a lot about something. Leave it for as long as possible. Come back to it so that you are a different person. Parallax–fix on it from a different position.