VONA 2011: Day 2

Today was good. Real good. I had a few memorable moments courtesy of Team Galang, other VONA writers and the children sharing our Berkeley space.

It was humbling to hear that a fellow VONA writer with a publishing deal flew all the way from India to be here. It’s her first time in the U.S. and she is one of the most insightful readers I’ve ever met. It was equally humbling to read the first two pages of another VONA writer’s book this morning.  Although it began with a strong image and some strong words, I felt he could be even more raw –  he could up the ante (today’s lesson), even at the risk of offending or turning others off (creating dangerously).

It was also nice to have a real meal. I had an early Creole dinner with one of these writers, along with a much needed glass of wine – made coming back to middle and high school kids a lot easier. I can always count on the kids for a funny/cute/maybe-I-need-a-grown-up-makeover story. Tonight, a twelve year old shouted “What’s up?” to me in front of a posse of Bieber look-a-likes. When I ignored him, he followed up with, “Wow, damn, you won’t even look at me?” His teacher then told him to “Hey, pay attention!” I kinda wanted to laugh and disappear at the same time.

Anyhow, today’s discussion was amazing – we had tears, cameras, and promises of death. Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as that sounds, but it was very enlightening. The assignment was Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s “At the Cafe Lovely,” which is available for free online and a great example of answering the question: What does the character want?

At the CafeLovely

What Stood Out for Me

  • Narrator’s use of flash forwards to both push away and pull back the reader.
  • Significance of death in triggering family decomposition and individual reclamation.
The Discussion
  • Our answer to what the narrator wants is acceptance.
  • Smaller teams discussed how each section in the story highlighted or “up-ed the ante” for the narrator’s desire to attain acceptance.
  • There’s an emotional arch in the story. The writer nudges the reader towards the climax and there is a clear moment in the story in which we see the acceptance (the denouement).
Ask Yourself
  • How can I use the literal for the metaphoric?
  • What does my character want, and is this the same as what they think they want?
  • How do I up the ante for my character? Am I addressing his or her need, want, or desire by progressing up and up?
  • Is there an emotional arch? I am not beholden to a linear story.
  • What is going to happen next?
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About MelissaR

Lover of words and movement. View all posts by MelissaR

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