Thursday, February 02, 2006

Using Margaret Atwood

I think I am going to enjoy my Using Margaret Atwood Loft class. There are twelve of us, six men and six women, a nice balance. Everyone seems to be serious about their writing. There is no one there because the class is on a Wednesday night or because they have always wanted to write about their mother. This is not a writing as therapy class. It couldn't be more different than the Personal Essay class I took last fall. We are not all in the same place with our writing and our skills. There is at least one woman who appears to have a lot of experience. When I arrived in class she was talking with someone about the two weeks she spent in Belize last summer at a writing workshop. She got to go because she won a scholarship from Zoetrope. She is clearly confident and proud but she does not seem to be snobby and superior. Of course there are quite a few very new writers in the class. They latched on to her as soon as they realized she is A Writer, bombarding her with questions, trying to figure out "the secret" so they, too, can be A Writer. It was very funny to watch. I wish there were a secret that when you know it you suddenly become a "real" writer. It would make things so much easier. But, while I'm still new at this writing thing, I am not so new that I haven't figured out that the "secret" is a lot of writing and a lot of hard work. I am, however, a lazy writer which is why I'm taking classes at the Loft. The teacher is Michael Kiesow Moore. So far I like him. He's a real person struggling with his writing like I am, not The Writer telling us The Answers. He made it a point to stress that while we will be reading Margaret Atwood, the class is a writing class and we will be focusing on craft. Last night was mostly lecture so we could set up a foundation from which to begin our endeavors. We are to examine character and character development, chronology, point of view and tense among other craft issues. We did an in-class exercise where we described someone we knew by the objects associated with that person. It is fascinating to see the sense you get of the person by doing this. The assignment for next week is to read the stories "True Trash" and "Hairball" from Wilderness Tips. We are also to choose one of two writing exercises:

  1. Write one page about yourself and what you would be like if you had been born in a different family, in another time, under other circumstances and another gender. Who would this person be? What objects would be in this person's life? What are this person's concerns? Dreams? Is this person happy? Has there been tragedy? Who is in this person's life?
  2. Take a paragraph from a story you have written and rewrite is using different points of view and tenses.
The teacher also suggested we watch Nova Tuesday night (7th). One of the Atwood stories we will be reading is "Bog Man" and Tuesday's Nova is about corpses found in bogs. It is supposed to help us understand and learn that we can get ideas for writing everywhere and so we can see how Atwood used such information in her own story. This class could be the start of something good.