Saturday, April 30, 2011

Workshops and Draft Purgatory

This quarter I tallied my total number of workshops, including my MFA. Total count: seventeen. Granted, I am a shopmonger. I have taken nonfiction, fiction and poetry. I have taken multiple shops at one time. I love dissecting how works–in-progress are/aren’t working. I appreciate how shop drives me to produce. I love the whiskey bar post shop decompress.

The downside of workshop is that you have to endure being workshopped. Of course, the point is to break everything down. That’s how everyone learns. I have even felt nostalgia for past shops where I was vivisected, but that was later, because I turned in something better. The shop story worked towards a happy ending. But over time this story's power has dwindled.

Time presents a new workshop problem: I generally know what everyone is going to say before they say it. What I hear over and over is that my voice engages but my structure has problems, and/or that my piece needs more weight. Here begins the heartbreak of writing—just because you are aware of your writing Waterloos doesn’t mean you know how to avoid them. Or revise them.

My goal for the next few weeks is to sort through the wreckage of five years (gah!) of drafts. Admittedly, much of this did go towards a book on Laura Ingalls Wilder, which will come out with Press 53 this fall. Completion! (I’ll be writing more in this later and—locusts willing—launch a website this summer). But I also have essays, memoirs, stories, flash fiction, aborted first novel chapters and now poetry sitting in desktop purgatory. So that’s my goal in the upcoming weeks. To attend to these lost souls. See what can be saved. What gets put in the DNR file.


Alex Kudera said...


I just found you via a search for "summer submissions" (Montana had a few, and I then got to a recent post on a book on Laura I. Wilder, whom I just happened to note in an interview posted today--anyway, congrats on your book with Press 53. I guess I've strayed from my Wilder beginning, but somehow she got into my recent thoughts.
Good luck with your writing.
alex kudera
ps--wilder comes early on here:

Kelly Kathleen Ferguson said...

Hey, nice interview. Thanks for commenting. I noticed I share many of the same adult fav authors with you as well.