Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Carolina Mountains Literary Festival

What a great weekend it was. I don't think I've ever learned so much in a festival weekend:
  • trivia facts: the quartz used in the Hale Telescope came from Mitchell county, Plott Hounds were a breed originated in Western North Carolina (I probably should have known that one, but I didn't grow up here), the 1904 Word's Fair had some 500 acres of land designated to "house" "indigenous peoples" from around the world and the Smithsonian arranged to have the rights to their bodies should they die during the fair.
  • new ways of thinking about writing poetry: the use of subordinating clauses to take you under surface meaning, abiding images, prose poetry as a means of avoiding the pretentious pause when reading line breaks, writing simply for the sound of the words, finding the plainest image to communicate meaning instead of the most abstruse one.
I also began to understand how each writer's process is different, needs to be, and the task is not necessarily to emulate a great writer's process, it is to discover your own. Stick with what works for you to be productive. Here are some processes writers described:
  • Long periods of self-loathing followed by furious bouts of typing. (hahaha!)
  • Starting poetry in the subconscious with #1 an "abiding image," #2 writing a big mess around that image, then in the conscious mind #3 attending to craft and paring it down.
  • One said, "Writing a novel is like putting hundreds of marbles on a table that's not quite level. And the moment I get them all to hold still I say -- I'm done. Because I know if I move just one thing, it'll all fall apart."
  • One has stopped journaling because it prevents her from writing anything else that day.
  • One calls it "canabalizing" (plagiarizing?) his own work as he takes the same images, words, and uses them in fiction, poetry, essay...
  • Some take copious notes and jot down things, some hold it all in their minds.
I was also very moved when Paul Cuadros was able to address 60 middle school students and probably 60 high school students... (there were about 240 in the room) about issues of immigration in small rural communities. His book A Home on the Field is very relevant and a worthwhile read -- especially if you like soccer. I would recommend it to you all.

And if you don't believe me that it was a great weekend, check out what an unbiased participant had to say: Robin's Blog.

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