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Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Tomorrow, 3/13/08, I will lead the ENG 306/406 (intermediate and advanced creative writing) workshops.  This is less work than it sounds; the classes meet at the same time and in the same room.

I’ve given the students one reading and one writing assignment: they must come to class having done both.

Reading:

Behind the Short Story: from First to Final Draft.  Ryan G. Van Cleave and Todd James Pierce, editors.  Section 8: The Short-Short Story, pages 289-296.

Writing:

One 500-word short story.  No specific prompt (I asked the class if they wanted one, they decided they didn’t), but the goal is to be as complete as possible.

Class Outline:

On the board, I am going to write the following piece of microfiction:

Nicholas was…

older than sin, and his beard could grow no whiter.  He wanted to die.

The dwarfish natives of the Arctic caverns did not speak his language, but conversed in their own, twittering tongue, conducted incomprehensible rituals, when they were not actually working in the factories.

Once every year they forced him, sobbing and protesting, into Endless Night.  During the journey he would stand near every child in the world, leave one of the dwarves’ invisible gifts by its bedside.  The children slept, frozen in time.

He envied Prometheus and Loki, Sisyphus and Judas.  His punishment was harsher.

Ho.

Ho.

Ho.

(Neil Gaiman, published in his collection Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions)
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January was a boom month; February not so much.  That said, I travelled through much of February, wrote a lot, and let’s face it, some of this material was fairly dense work.  Fascinating stuff, but hard to get through.

February 2008

Non-Fiction:

A World Full of Gods – John Michael Greer

The Letters of Abelard and Heloise – Betty Radice, translator

Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine works, with Letters and Songs – Matthew Fox, editor

Fiction:

Tigerheart – Peter David

David’s book hasn’t been released yet – I picked up a galley at the AWP Conference in Manhattan.  It’s a fun romp of a book; it retells the Peter Pan story, which is also the growing-up story, and he does it with a narrator who comes in and out of the story.  This lends the work a “read-aloud” feel; it is as if this narrator is reading the story to his or her child.  I’m not one for a lot of superlatives, but it was a lot of fun to read, and I think it appropriate for young and adult readers alike.

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Books I Have Read

I tend to keep track of books I have read.  This started as an experiment four or five years ago – I was asked “how many books do you read in a year?” and I honestly had no idea.  I ended up keeping solid track, month by month, and can now confidently say I read on average roughly one hundred books annually, more fiction than non-fiction.

Right now, with my master’s thesis taking up a lot of time, I am writing more, and thus reading less.  Still keeping track, though, and here’s what it looks like so far:

January 2008

Non-Fiction:

The Heroin Diaries – Nikki Sixx

The Professor and the Madman: Murder, Insanity, and the Creation of the Oxford English Dictionary – Simon Winchester

Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure – Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser

What We Lost – Dale Peck

Fiction:

The Evil B. B. Chow and Other Stories – Steve Almond

The Goldan Compass – Phillip Pullman

The Subtle Knife – Phillip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass – Phillip Pullman

Note that I count things like autobiographies and memoirs as non-fiction.  They’re hard to classify, really, particulalry as we draw the fine line between what “really happened,” “what we remember happening,” and “what we think happened, anyway.”  In some rather famous cases this has lead to quite a stir, but I still consider works like these to be, more or less, nonfiction.  In my mind it has more to do with adjusting one’s life according to memory versus making something up out of whole cloth.  Memory is a faulty thing, and it’s true that we often get facts wrong later, but we’re still speaking from memory of actual events.  therefore, nonfiction.  At least, for now.

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