The portfolio I mentioned last week was my final for an “intermediate” creative-writing class.
I titled it The Partial Histories of Often Confused People and filled it with three poems and four short stories. Most of the stories were strongly based on real occurrences, or how I imagined reality to be from a smattering of facts I’d gleaned.
Mostly “downer” stuff for some reason.
Each of them hold hope, but they’re all very heavy. I re-read the ending of one and it actually got me choked-up.
This class was the place I first learned to consciously vary my sentence structure. The teacher called me on my repetitive tendency to start each sentence with the subject (e.g., these two sentences).
Now whenever I start a sentence not that way I’m aware that the reason is that class. I think it made me a better writer.
Here’s the teacher’s response to the work (where the title of this post comes from). It’s interesting think this is from four years ago, and I think about how I’ve changed and how I’ve stayed the same.
Well, thanks much for The Partial Histories of Often Confused People. It is a good collection and seems very Amy, standing up for what it believes in, assembling moments with no small sense of conviction.
Having said that, I’m not sure just yet what sort of a writer you’re meant to be, someone writing stories or literary nonfiction — or maybe essays that allow you more room in some ways to tackle the issues that clearly matter so deeply to you.
I’m somewhat inclined to see you in that final sense, using your training as a journalist and your affection for telling stories to create different kinds of essays.
Whatever you tackle it will be spirited. And perhaps if you go the essay route, the sense of humor you display in class will also find an outlet on paper (humor is almost totally absent in your stories, which seems odd considering how downright goofy you can be in class— that’s meant as a complement, honest).
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I guess I have gone “the essay route” via this blog, and while I haven’t been able to let stories go, the ones I’ve focussed on are not nearly as personal.
Since the time I wrote these stories I’ve come to be extremely biased against the darker emotional stuff because I see it as a literary short-cut.
I feel it’s a cheap shot for the readers’ emotions that doesn’t take great effort or craft; sort of like the Disney-orphan cliché.
Anybody care to comment as to whether I’ve been able to bring more humor into my writing? I’m a very poor judge of such things, and probably should read more about humor in print as opposed to real life.
The best complement he gave me was at the end:
You were a grand presence in the class, honest without ever being insensitive.
It is no overstatement to say that this– being honest without being insensitive– has been a top goal of mine most of my life, and it was heartening to see someone describe me this way.
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I know I’m a writer, because I can’t not write. What I’ve been trying to decide lately is whether writing for publication is actually important to me, and worth the sacrifices “everyone” says are necessary.
Some people might say if I have to ask I don’t want it enough, and if that is true, I’m okay with that.
But I’ve been feeling special grace and encouragement in my writing, and I figure something will eventually happen, so I don’t need to rush or get my priorities out of order.
Wow……I almost feel like I’m reading about myself in this post. I wish you the best in your writing endeavors. Continue to do what you love, and paths of opportunity will open up to you. I read recently that a good writer pushes the boundaries, so don’t be afraid to do that, I guess.
That is fantastic feedback! Sounds like it was a really useful class.