Tag Archives: Jodi Angel

Experiments in Perspective

29 Sep

My twelfth set of writing prompts for the Ploughshares blog explores writing from the perspective of characters unlike yourself, with insight from Jodi Angel, Chris Abani, and Keith Ridgeway’s great short story “Rothko Eggs”. Here’s how it begins:

A crucial lesson I learned early on in my attempts at writing fiction is that every character is you–and not you. Characters have parts of you inside of them because you wrote them. But they are still not you. Chris Abani once said in a workshop that readers will always wonder if your characters are you–even if your main character is a Chihuahua. There’s not much to do about this wondering except write the characters you want to write with complexity and empathy.

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Tin House Writer’s Workshop 2013

7 Aug

Whew, July was busy. I went to the Tin House Writer’s Workshop for the first time, and I hope not the last. And I went to New York for a week after that (more in a subsequent post). There’s still a ton of information from the conference sifting through the crevices of my mind, but here’s a grab bag of favorites, with some bolded text and lots of links just for fun.

  • I studied with Benjamin Percy, who advised our short story workshop to “Grab [readers] by the throat and drag ’em down the rabbit hole,” which might be my favorite writing advice, second only to “Forget the reuben. Focus on the ninjas.”
  • In a panel on publishing and Tin House, Rob Spillman advised, “Don’t send your work out when you’re feeling creative. Send it out when you’re feeling organized,” which is a useful reminder, and at the agent panel he called debut author advances “Capitalism at its scariest,” which is something that will lurk in a corner of my brain for a good long while.
  • On character, Jodi Angel said, “We don’t go to the page to make friends. We go to see something other and apart from who we are.”
  • Karen Russell gave a talk on the art of long sentences and how they can give an “occult sense of how another mind moves, from word to word.”
  • On place, Luis Urrea urged, “Don’t use place. Inhabit it. [….] You are a place. As a place, you must be a shame-free zone [….] Writing prompt: go out and rub dirt on your face.”
  • On time, Jess Walter suggested: if you’re stuck in a story, consider making the clock more specific.
  • Anthony Doerr‘s talk on failure ended with this.
  • Also, I fell in love with Dorothea Lasky. Her latest collection of poetry is Thunderbird.

Again and again, throughout the week, it seemed everyone suggested you should write the story that only you can write, that you should pay “ruthless and tender attention” (Steve Almond, there) to life. At least some of the talks will be available online sometime. In the meantime, here’s a link to podcasts from previous conferences




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