Tag Archives: LLF

Lambda Literary Emerging Writer’s Workshop, Day 5

G. FlaubertWe’ve read through all of the fiction writers’ pieces and handed back critiques, treating each work and editorial process seriously and concentrating like whoa on giving good specific feedback. After five days I feel raw and exhausted, but good. It’s like whittling deadwood, sloughing off the bits I don’t need (I’m looking at you, insecurity and bad literary habits). Now I can focus my attention on word choice, craft, storytelling, and because Chip has hammered it into me, description. It may very well be that every story I write for the next few years, I will write for his eye and ear and sense of prose.

Samuel Delany refers a lot to Flaubert, and Balzac, and Walter Pater. He considers his words, and speaks in the most delightful cyclical cadence that keeps me fascinated with whatever next word is going to come out of his mouth. I’ve been cobbling a list of his reading recommendations, which may only make sense in context of giving feedback to us, and which is based in part on the kinds of stories we’ve been writing, but which is still a great stand-alone list. Here are some of his reference points: Read More…

Lambda Literary Emerging Writer’s Workshop, Day 2

purple keyboardWe’re here, we’re queer, and we’re critiquing each other’s work. So came the second full day of the retreat, enshrouded in mist once again and with a chilly breeze that made me glad I’d chosen a sweater vest for the morning. Thank goodness I discovered how to command hot water out of my shower, because a second event of freezing liquid was just not going to work for me. I woke up at 6:30 and went through my new French press coffee routine, then groomed myself.

I’d read two more stories last night and done my best to provide guidance without dissection. I tucked a small notebook into my pocket so that I could jot down the authors and titles of recommended reading (I’d missed two or three references on Monday). I chatted with people in the dining hall over steaming bowls of creamed wheat and not-so-fresh squeezed orange juice. One of my colleagues was dog-tired and held her head in her hands. And before I knew it, she was crying.

I’ve been in this place of sudden compassion before, and it has always involved a decision between sitting quietly so as to let them have their emotions, or filling up the space partway to offer a hinge they can swing from if they want to. So I told a very short story to express empathy in an indirect way, and she thanked me and then got up. Sometimes I wonder if spending so many decades divorced from my feelings hasn’t made me more able to connect to people now, because I refuse to pretend humans are strictly rational. I’m making up for lost processing time. Read More…

Lambda Literary Emerging Writers Workshop, Day 1

san fernando valleyOkay, here I am. I can stand on the slant of the hill and gaze upon the San Fernando Valley, when the mist and/or the smog isn’t hiding it, that is. It’s pretty, and like a lot of the West Coast, covered in desert plants. None of the palm trees I see are native to Southern California, but I appreciate them anyway. Palm trees, for me, mean that I’m somewhere not considered home. They ring vacation to me, because you can never really lose the New Jersey, I guess.

I have sat in a room with Samuel Delany for hours now, have wandered across a campus with him, hoping our noses will lead us to the dining hall (for better or for worse), acting like such engagements with him are totally no big deal. This man taught Octavia Butler. Octavia Fucking Butler. AKA one of my favorite writers of all time. But hey, let’s chat about how much we hate stairs. (Answer: A lot) I don’t pretend that Mr. Delany will have any idea who I am by the middle of next week, but he’s personable and so brilliantly smart he may be solely responsible for the huge sun spot that flamed out last week. I have great admiration for Malinda Lo, who is teaching the YA/genre section, I have scads of respect for Sarah Schulman, who inspired my many years of involvement with the Lesbian Avengers (which she cofounded), and I always revere poets like David Groff because I’m completely inept at poetry. Read More…

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