What a gorgeous day in Forest Grove, sunny but not too hot. Faculty met to determine pairings so students had the afternoon off. Some went to Portland and some to a nearby state park. I spent my afternoon in my room working on Residency Reviews– commentaries on the craft talks we have attended throughout the week. Had Billy Bragg playing on the iPod– the sense of being back at Evergreen State (H dorm) was spooky and slightly sad.
After tonight’s faculty readings, the pairings were posted and I was pleased (and alliterative) to find I’ll be working with the same faculty who led my workshop– a terrific writer and teacher.
Speaking of workshop, I realize that haven’t described how they function. Basically the group you are assigned to meets for a couple of hours before lunch. One student’s writing submission will be the focus of the first hour, another the second, although sometimes only one student’s work is examined and the rest of the time is devoted to discussions of craft. Each faculty has a different way of leading the workshop but for the most part the person whose work is being critiqued will stay quiet and take notes while the rest of the workshop discuss his/her submission. Issues such as character, structure, and theme are the main focus with line editing and other more technical areas confined to the comments we have written on our copies of the work (we give these marked up copies back to the author at the end of the workshop). At the end of the allotted time, the student being critiqued will be asked if he/she has any questions– a few sometimes do have an issue they’d like to have addressed but mostly a simple, “Thank you” ends the session. Defending one’s work or trying to explain anything not directly on the page is bad manners and just not done. My work was up for discussion today and the feedback was very helpful.
One thing I wanted to mention about the Residency is the way interacting with the faculty can really prune away any feelings of inadequacy one might have. To be around writers who have books coming out, or movie deals, or who have just come back from book tours– it makes the whole idea of being a working writer somehow seem more real, more tangible, more possible. For me, writers have always seemed like these remote deities. To hang out with them and realize they are folk like you– it is a very cool and very encouraging thing.