Posts Tagged ‘Tim Wynne-Jones’


Today we had our first workshop meeting.  Ours is one of the small groups – six people and one advisor as opposed to ten or twelve people and two advisors.  Our faculty advisor is Tim Wynne-Jones.  And because it is a smaller group we have more time to spend not only discussing workshop pieces but also exploring specific craft issues.

Which means writing exercises.

I have this fear of in-class writing exercises because I immediately get my hackles raised at having to perform on cue.  Irrationally, perhaps – I am a writer after all, I should be able to write simple exercises, right? – I immediately fear I will get the assignment wrong.  Or worse, because I think while I write (and I write slowly) that I won’t finish in time and somehow be seen as less of a writer.  Plus everyone else in the group is brilliant and I’m a charlatan.  At least that’s how it feels.

But today after the discussion of one my fellow workshopper’s pieces we did a couple short exercises – Tim calls them writing games – that didn’t leave me feeling quite so dumbstruck.  I am not saying these are brilliant examples of writing in general, or of my own writing, but that I walked away feeling like maybe I can write on command without breaking out in a sweat and fearing my writer’s card will be taken away.

First we were asked to write a scene that contained a character named Teri, a kitchen, and dealing with aftermath of a date… without actually talking about the date directly.

Teri entered the kitchen without turning on the light.  She removed a glass from the cabinet – the old French tumbler with the chip at the base that she couldn’t help running her finger over.  She ran the tap a bit before filling the glass then turned and leaned against the sink while taking slow, deliberate sips.  She shifted her weight from hip to hip while kicking off her shoes.  Her eyes adjusted to the dark as shades of color began to appear around her.  The dishtowels looked dingy in the shadowy moonlight.  The loaf of bread she had hastily placed atop the refrigerator earlier leaned anxiously toward the edge, ready to fall.  The fruit in the bowl on the counter had somehow deflated while she was out.

Teri took one final sip and wiped away the evening from her lips.

The word anxious is highlighted because originally I had written eagerly, crossed it out, then added it back.  I like the idea that amid all this dour post-date imagery there was something threatening to take some sort of action.  Tim spotted it immediately and I held fast to it during the workshop but realized now that anxiety in a loaf of bread seemed better.  I could be wrong, I often am.

Students of Tim’s, or of VCFA in general, will probably recognize this as an objective correlative assignment.

Next, we looked at adjectives.  No, rather, we didn’t look at them.  It was a quicky, a scene set outside using no adjectives.  No other rules.  Go.

The crows dropped from the trees all at once and alighted on the playground.  They flapped and cawed and danced around the body lying face-down in the center of the basketball court.  First one, then several crows approached the body, tilting their heads for a better view.  A car backfired and the sound sent the crows back to the trees where they waited until it was once again safe to investigate what had happened to their friend.

Okay, I have no idea where the hell that came from.  I half thought I would make the body a fallen scarecrow, but then the basketball court didn’t make sense.  Then I started thinking about crows thinking of a human as a friend and what they expected of him.  Next thing I knew, I was thinking more than writing.  That happens.

So, again, not great writing, but some things I thought interesting.  Thought I’d share.

My piece gets workshopped on Tuesday.  I’m not nervous at all.  Not yet at least.

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It’s no secret that I read more than one book at the same time.  I have books in different rooms that I read in those rooms alone.  I have books that travel from room to room, place to place, as they hold my interest.  I have books I read and leave at work.  And there are books I am actively reading (daily) and passively reading (as the mood strikes, abandoned for the moment).  I never have less than five books out from the library, upwards of a dozen I’m reviewing at any given moment.

Then there’s the magazines.  I love magazines.  I am a total periodical consumer.

The funny thing is how all this parallel reading sometimes comes together.  I have a pair of books in one room (okay, the bathroom) that on the surface couldn’t seem more opposite: Lord of the Fries by Tim Wynne-Jones and Humpty Dumpty in Oakland by Phillip K. Dick.  I take turns reading chapters from them. I find they compliment each other in strange ways.

One is a collection of short stories, the other is a novel, separated by 30 years (although this is the first time the Dick book has been in print).  One has adults trying to navigate the harsher realities of middle-age angst, the other has teens navigating their teenage angst. Urban California versus suburban Canada.  Modern, natural narrative against mannered literary stylist.

The two books work together the same way that ingredients do in cooking, it’s almost alchemical.  You can make a tomato sauce for pasta with a little honey to cut the acid, or you can grate in some lemon zest instead and brighten the flavor.  The Dick book has a gravity to it, the weight of the characters like the spare tire they carry with them in their later years; the Wynne-Jones kids are all the light rambunctiousness of youth.  Both feature the antics of adults navigating their way through life, different but no less than the teens who are still trying to find their place in the world.  Same world, different times, same struggles, different perspectives.

Parallel worlds, in my bathroom.

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