VONA 2011: Day 1

As part of the residency with Evelina, we received reading assignments that we discuss as a group during lunch. Unlike the workshops, the residents do not critique each other’s work. Instead, we read the assignments and discuss relevant craft elements during our meetings. We meet with our instructor (in my case, Evelina) twice during the week to discuss our submission and receive an assignment to address specific issues in our work. We’re expected to write the rest of the time.

Today’s assignment was the first chapter in Edwidge Danticat’s “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work.” I also had my first one-on-one with Evelina to discuss the chapters I submitted from the WIP. Below are highlights from Danticat’s moving essay and my one-on-one.

Create Dangerously

What Stood Out for Me

  • Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously.
  • Become a citizen of the country of your readers.
  • A person’s creative work is a slow trek to rediscover the 2-3 images in whose presence our hearts first opened (Albert Camus).
  • The immigrant artist wonders if life would have been simpler had we chosen passive careers (doctors, lawyers, engineers or whatever our parents wanted us to be). In other words, if we had been mere witnesses to life and death. Instead, we think we are people who risked not existing at all.
The Discussion
  • Create the universal through the particular.
  • Dare to offend.
  • Bring your blood and guts to the table.
  • It’s in the details. The details in your life create the character.
  • You have a responsibility to your characters – give them the space to fuck up.
Ask Yourself
  • Mythic Element: What is the story that haunts you as a writer?
  • Creation Myth: Clash of life and death, homeland and exile. What is your creation myth?
  • What is the conflict, and what does your character do to resolve it?
  • Apparently I am non-committal. Whose story am I telling? Commit to your character(s).
  • The reader craves tension. Staying close to real life limits your ability to explore the character and create the tension. Change up the facts to remove the restraints.
  • Unlike law school, if a teacher asks a question here, it is not rhetorical – there is an answer and only I know what that answer is because I am the writer.
On a lighter note, I’m supposed to teach a belly dance class to the other writers on Wednesday from 7-8pm. At least that gives me something else to work on when I’m not writing.

About MelissaR

Lover of words and movement. View all posts by MelissaR

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