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A half dozen MFA students with a sudden surplus of spare time equals what? Birthday tribute videos, that's what!

We're all pretty good at lip synch too. )
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You know how there's supposed to be five stages of grief? Well, it strikes me that you can chart out a similar process for contextualizing/processing the various feedback you get in a particularly spirited fiction workshop. I'm trying to accept that these stages are inevitable and necessary to the workshop experience, as opposed to functions of my temperamental and contrary nature.

1. Defense: This one usually happens during the workshop proper, where your reactions to every criticism leveraged at your work are a set of  knee-jerk protests. "But that's not what that meant...but you don't understand...but you're reading it wrong..." and so on. An emotional desire to stave off perceived attack (and possibly a temporary inability to differentiate between your text and your person). The best way to survive this is to keep your fucking trap shut so you don't sound like a defensive whiner. This feeling may be an inevitable part of the process, but that doesn't mean it's attractive.

2. Despair: After you're done feeling self-protective, you succumb to a (hopefully temporary) belief that everything negative said about your work is true, that every criticism and complaint has equal weight, and that the task of revising and editing is so insurmountable you may as well sit in the corner of your office running the edge of your manuscript back and forth across your wrists in the hope that you may hit a vein, rather than attempt to salvage this decrepit piece of shit you inflicted upon your  intelligent classmates. You in fact hypervalue any negative input over positive statements in this stage.

3. Defiance: Suddenly, going over the workshop in your mind, you realize how many insensitive, prescriptive, or flat out stupid things were said about your work. You dwell on the two or three absolutely foolish remarks that inevitably come up in the course of the workshop, and manage to generalize these gems of stupidity, dwelling now on the insipid and thoughtless. You begin to suspect you have cast your pearls before swine, that your first impulse was correct: they didn't get it! This stage may involve listening to Irish punk music on repeat or pacing your house delivering a swear-laden philippic at the imaginary presence of your detractors.

4. Epiphany: You suddenly remember two things. One is that you wouldn't have taken the story to workshop if you thought it perfect. The other is that you, yourself, have your own aesthetic tastes and readerly concerns and textual philosophies to apply to the workshop feedback. In other words, you recall that you get to filter all this feedback through and towards your own goals.

5. Recuperation: You approach the feedback from a new and more balanced standpoint, remembering that you cannot denigrate your own tastes and concerns just because they don't match someone else's. You realize that, even if you ignore the prescriptive comments or the less helpful suggestions, these same comments point out how certain readers will approach the text. Sometimes this will give you an idea how to change your work; sometimes you'll be liberated to ignore their feedback entirely. You integrate the feedback that seems most conducive to the story you want to write, and take the feedback that seems to come from a place of taste or temperament with a grain of salt. The most important thing to remember is that if everyone in the room likes your story, you're doing something wrong. Writing is not a democracy. No one can tell you what to write or how to write; all they can tell you is how they read it. This isn't information to be taken lightly, but it's not information that should undermine your own sensibilities.
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Well, I finished the draft of the story about the street gang murder. Now it's time to start the draft about the prostitute in the Nevada brothel.

My workshop compatriots will be happy I continue to live up to their expectations. Or maybe they won't.
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Soon I will post about how orientation has been going fine and how the people in this program are awesome and how I'm surrounded by people who can have conversations about Beckett and Kushner and the Simpsons and The Neverending Story and comic books and Mary Gaitskill and Monty Python and Michael Chabon and so on and so on...and also how my graduate advisor once shared a cab with Mary Karr, David Foster Wallace, and Jonathon Franzen and how he didn't mind when I shrieked "You are SHITTING me?!?" after discovering this fact. 

For right now I just want to mention that in addition to my intro seminar and my fiction workshop, I'm also taking playwriting for youth. I sat on the fence about this once, since I don't see myself as a kids' writer. But the more I talked to the teacher, the more excited I got about it (she has so much respect for youth, resents that people think that "youth theater" is somehow less artful than mainstream theater). And then when I talked to Hodge he pointed out that I'm always talking about children as aesthetes, that I talk nonstop about how certain books and shows and movies affected me when I myself was young. That I'm obsessed with the kind of storytelling that's both fun and smart and beautiful and engaging. So now I'm really, really excited by this prospect. He's right. How many times a week do I have the Hinson-Miyazaki-Barrie-Carroll-Leguin-Dahl-Silverstein-fill in awesome children's storyteller here-rant? How many times do I complain bitterly about the patronizing quality of a huge pile of movies and books for kids? This is an avenue I didn't anticipate exploring, but now that I've got the chance it seems like it was more or less made for me.

Of course I'm going to have to cut down on swearing and sex jokes, but I think I can still talk about murder and mayhem. After all, Lemony Snicket has paved the road ahead of me.


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