I am following Ray Bradbury’s self directed MFA by reading a poem, a short story, and an essay with the intention of using the idea of good words in = good words out.
I welcome your comments and insights as well! I also welcome any recommendations you would like to share with me.
Poem:A Warm, Small Rain by Adam Zagajewski Paris Review
Essays: The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg – Orientation
And Not a Novel A Memoir in Pieces Jenny Erpenbeck On “The Book of Words”
I have reread the poem several times. The sparkles from this poem for me are:
a street with no name
from your dreams and my dreams
The story is from a publication I respect and read often. The story is a short list that reads to me like a character sketch. Underneath each paragraph is a brief line separated with the death row dinners. One is an olive, one is a slice of pecan pie, and the last is hard candy. It is an off center story for me.
NG’s essay is about the routines of the rituals she has established for her retreats. Sitting, slow walking, jobs, meals, etc. There is mindfulness built around everything for her retreats. One of the ideas that resonates with me is the Food Offering that is written out that students pick up and read before they eat. It is a moment of pause and reflection and appreciation. Some might call it a prayer but I like the label of offering.
She also discusses interviews in this chapter. She talks with students in groups of 4 which she says allows them to learn from each other and takes the pressure off all parties.
The Erpenbeck essay is another lecture she gave a concept she talks about is a motto Silence is Health promoted by military in Buenos Aires. She discusses how it was used in the war to quiet people but also refers to writing and reading being done in silence. She discusses writing her book and the ideas behind it. There is a lot in this essay about writing, craft, and silence.
Yesterday I had my monthly writing circle which is always an interesting gathering. We do timed writings each time and then do an activity called Readback Feedback. The teacher talks a lot about the “gems” we write and hear. It is the same concept of underlining phrases in a story or poem that pop out to you. I teach this technique to students in various contexts but especially when annotating.
There is magic in this group. Something about the chemistry and the trust is a special time. The group is three hours and it always flies by. To hear someone speak their words aloud is interesting in itself. I have come to recognize everyone’s style of writing in each of the pieces they read. There is a flow that happens while we all write together. We do a bit of grounding and meditation beforehand but I am not sure that is what causes the extra sparkle in the group. I appreciate it and try not to overthink it. There is no formula to be followed.
Next month we are meeting again for a bonus session and I am excited it is being offered. I have learned so much from this group and Jane herself. It is truly inspiring.
What do I take away from all these readings? We are almost halfway through the month now and I am maintaining that the Good words in = Good words out is a good motto. The conversations I have had the last 5 days about craft and writing have been some of the most in depth conversations I have had in a long time directly tied to reading. There is power in a common text within a group of people.
I feel l am more carefully crafting my sentences and pieces. The most effective exercise is using my daily prompts to write one story. I reread and revise what I have written on the previous days which makes me feel productive. I am using the 7 prompts to write one story. Today the prompt is about suet which I had to look up. The only thing I knew about it was it is used for bird feeders in craft books I read when I was young.
Next week the experiment will change slightly.
The concept of silence is coming up in the pieces. I am noticing threads through the readings and what I am paying attention to. I will freewrite with the word silence today as well and see what connections come through.