Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Notes From The Annual Writers Conference

I found my one, lone page of notes from AWP in the dryer this morning. I know that was over a month ago. The notes were on a panel on dealing with difficult students in the nonfiction writing workshop.

Here’s what I wrote:

How to workshop the TMI piece: 1) be specific 2) be honest 3) help writers clarify their own ideas

Running a writers’ workshop is like running a kindergarten. You deal with the same players: 1) the star 2) the resenter 3) the diva 4) the tattler.

When dealing with a diva (who will constantly interrupt the workshop), diffuse by asking: “What would you like to accomplish in this piece?”

Sometimes people use memoir as a way of processing their feelings. This can get weird. One way to ease the discomfort of workshopping true story is to treat the nonfiction protagonist the same as a fiction one. Ask: 1) What does the character want? 2) What stands in her way? 3) What’s at stake if she doesn’t get what she wants?

And that’s it. Nice, right? All manner of respected literary giants around and I spend four days stuffing my face with every variety of ethnic food I could find. My excuse is that I live in a small town built on subs, gringo burritos and pizza. I crave spice.


Trying . . . in Pittsburgh said...

Thanks for sharing this advice! I'm teaching nonfiction as part of intro. to creative writing this summer, and it's been a while since I've had to deal with the TMI essay - glad to have some useful thoughts!

R.T. said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing this piece of advice on nonfiction, which applies to students who write too close to their personal experiences as cathartic therapy, which is awkward all around for everyone.