Quick Notes on New York State Writers Institute

Here are some of the ideas we discussed in Amy Hempel’s Fiction 2 Workshop. First, we discussed concerns we have as writers: gaps in stories/transitions, plot (I brought this one up along with a few others), over explaining, implying, use of third person narration, openings and closings and also subtlety of language.

And I am pretty cynical about workshops and “direction” from other writers but the campus is quiet and green and I guess I am lightening up a bit because I actually took some notes and wrote down many of the authors she suggested to read.

She also gave us a ‘to do’ list:

1. Watch this Youtube video: PJ Harvey–“You Said Something”

The lesson here is that sometimes central mystery is key to a piece of writing.

2. Read this essay by Gary Lutz–“The Sentence is a Lonely Place”

The lesson here is to appreciate language and the sound of language.

3. Read this Sharon Olds poem–After 37 Years My Mother Apologizes for My Childhood

4. Read this story by Mark Richard–“Strays”

Amy Hempel explained how central elements of story converge but three important elements dog, home and boy are all introduced in first sentence.

4.5. Try to write this week. Two pages to one of these prompts: 1. Moment of giving forgiveness or not giving forgiveness; or a moment when you were not given forgiveness. 2. A moment of being blindsided. 3. A moment of collision between illusion and reality.

I also put some of her quotes down in my notebook:

Story=event of what someone wants

Careful of writing situation but not yet story. Also it is more important who is in situation rather than situation.

Try to figure a story where characters whose ideas beliefs desires stand as opposed but both right…

Story can be event versus effect. Read “Miriam” by Truman Copote as example of story creating effect rather than giving event.

Some random quotes:

“You are trying to be listened to.”

“Get yourself on the paper quickly.”

“Do something right in the small and the large will take care of itself.”

“Who is in the situation is more important than the situation.”

Place: “What happens here and nowhere else.” “Details too good to fact check.”

After meeting with Amy Hempel I have many more new books to read and study. She gave me this quote I put in my notebook on whether or not to worry about writing about family or real persons: “Show it to them when it is published.”

Also here is one of my favorite quotes from on of her lectures. Quote from Amy Hempel lecture: “If you think of fiction as just another made up thing, then you might as well put a gun in your mouth.”

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john paul jaramillo

John Paul Jaramillo’s debut story collection The House of Order was named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and his most recent work Little Mocos is now available from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch and Read. He is currently a professor of composition and literature at Lincoln Land College-Springfield, Illinois.

2 thoughts on “Quick Notes on New York State Writers Institute”

  1. This has inspired me. I have to go begin my story of forgiveness right now!! Haven’t written in years. Thank you!!!!

    I will be checking back !!

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