I have been quite remiss in updating this blog, but rest assured it is NOT because I’m not writing (though truth be told I could be writing more).
Last semester I took a Fiction workshop. And I grumbled and groused the whole way through. I found writing fiction to be difficult, overwhelming, kind of like shopping in a big box store: shelves filled with product, no one to help you reach the stuff way up high, too many choices. With creative non-fiction you’re limited by “the truth” (however you define that).
The first story I submitted to workshop was not completely embarrassing. I had one character (very loosely based on a friend’s ex-husband) who was obsessed with Thomas Kinkaide paintings and villages. An interesting character, but I never could figure out how to create an authentic confrontation and make something happen in the story…
The next story I tried to write was strongly based in setting, a place I love dearly, Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego County. Specifically a part that a friend and I used to call The Hill of Truth– the mile walk from the far end of the parking lot to the top, 3/4 of it up hill.
About half way up The Hill is a small landing with a big torrey pine leaning out as if to catch a glimpse of the landscape below. This is my rest spot, my tree. I don’t really need a break– I’d been hiking The Hill at a more leisurely pace– but I stop anyway. From here, the coast highway swirls into the village of Del Mar along the beach, and if I’m lucky I’ll see a train roll through, skimming the top of the lagoon before ducking under the highway to hug the cliff heading north.
This road is narrow, and cuts into the hill revealing the earth’s strata and geological upheavals. As I take the next switchback, I see a history displayed in rich warm colors, layers of eons, some nearly vertical, some displaced by tectonic shifts and earthquakes.
The earth still shifts here, chunks of cliff falling with some frequency. And some days if I am paying attention, I see new pieces on the side of the road, new bits of history on display….
But every scene I wrote started to sound like a bad YA novel: betrayal, boys and bad dialog. I didn’t turn it in.
Dan Mueller insisted should be called “Our House is Like Switzerland.”
Dan had also said that my story reminded him of Bartleby the Schrivner by Herman Mellville, a story that I had never read.
The final requirement for the class was to revise a piece to completion, and submit it somewhere. And so, when I found this literary journal, Bartleby Snopes, named after two famous literary characters one of whom was Barleby the Schrivner, I thought is was fate. Or something. I was compelled to submit my story there.
Now the fun part… some things you may recognize: my green coat, my cousin Katie’s blue hair, and big ole orange tom cat who liked to be vacuumed, my two cats… the rest is fiction.
Looking back, and of course with the success of publication under my belt and the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with that, I think maybe fiction can be fun. Like collaging, you can take a little bit from here, a little bit from there and paste it all together and create something.
This semester I’m back in the world of cnf, but taking a class about the novel. One of the requirements for that class is to plan our novel, so who knows!