05 August 2006

Fiction: who really has the time?

I chose to major in poetry because it was cheaper to make the copies for workshop. Well, that and the limited attention span when it comes to writing. I'm a sprinter. But I've always loved fiction, and written fiction, and read fiction for pleasure. My stories tend to be very short and make no sense. Sound familiar?

This Fall I'm teaching intro to fiction writing, and familiarizing myself with this startling new edition of Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway--apparently fiction has changed since the mint green 4th edition; perhaps the color looked too much like money--and now I'm writing stories in my head everywhere I go.

On a long walk with Ray today, seeing a semi-grizzled sixtyish man mowing his yard while carrying a small American flag (leftover from some realtor who put them around our neighborhood on the 4th; I know he was just holding it because he'd plucked it off the parkway, but it still seemed significant somehow), or in the mall, with some lady saying, No honey, we're not going to Starbucks, Mommy only drinks hot cocoa in the summer, I am Writing Fiction in my head and it's gotta stop. It's going to get in the way of the poetry!

I will, however, be writing a poem with the man driving a stick shift through my mind the other day. I just need to figure out what kind of car.


Penultimatina said...

I just re-read this, and the last paragraph sounds like the beginning of one of my stories.


Suzanne said...

I wish I could sit in on that class! I intended to write short stories, and still have no idea how I started writing poems.

Justin Evans said...

When I took an honors creative writing seminar back in my early college days, I was introduced to sudden fiction (flash, short short, etc), and there was one story I loved in particular, about an elementary school teacher trying to explain death to a bunch of his kids, whose pets and parents keep on dying. At the end of the story, the kids ask the teacher to make love to his teacher aide to help reinforce their optimism. For the life of me, I have not ever found that story, and cannot remember the title or author.

For a long time, I went through this sudden fiction phase, where I would write these little, meta-fiction pieces, full of perfunctory narration. I even started writing stories based upon folk songs like "Delia" and "Seven Curses."

All of my fiction turns out flat, tooeven keeled. My worst example is with a short story that turned out to be about 6,000 words, but you wouldn't know it because it felt monotone.

My way of saying I would love to take a fiction workshop.

david dodd lee said...

The story Justin is talking about is by Donald Barthelme, called "The School." It's included in Mark Winegarder's fiction anthology, 3 by 33.

Penultimatina said...

Thanks David, and welcome!

Chad Simpson said...

I came over here by way of Jeff's blog, and I just have to say, Crap. I use Burroway's book to teach Beg. Fiction, and I wasn't even aware there was a new edition out. I suppose it can make the syllabus next year, provided my employer keeps me around.

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