Tag Archives: Jane Boyer

The Gathering Week One

Well, the first book I have to read for my residency with acclaimed western writer, Jane Boyer (Candia Coleman) is The Gathering by Anne Enright. Now you must be thinking, what is a western writer doing assigning an Irish writer to a bunch of first years (freshman so to speak)? The answer would be my upcoming trip to Dublin, Ireland in June. Why Anne Enright? Because she could very well be there during the residency and she is a fantastic example of Irish writing.

The copy I'm currently reading looks like this ūüôā

I’ve had some experience with Irish writing. Mostly James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, John Millington Synge, and William Trevor. My experience first came in a Irish Short Fiction class during my junior or senior year of my undergrad. It would have been an amazing class if it had not been at 8 o’clock in the morning three days a week. There is just something about 8 a.m. that makes the brain want to work less. It was interesting nonetheless and I expect my time in Ireland will be much better than sleepy mornings in the basement of the library.

Returning to the purpose of the post, I have spent the last few days starting Anne Enright’s book. ¬†The book is set in Ireland and England, so far. To me, they are exotic enough that just the areas she describes excite me to read more. As much as I enjoy her use of vocabulary and detailed scenes, I force myself to slow down. Too frequently, readers forget how to read slow and simply skim over the words only processing half of them. My friends and family may think I’m a fast reader because I finish books quickly, but that is not the case. In fact, I would describe myself as a slow reader on purpose. I want to savor the moments of a book whether it is for school or for pleasure. Reading shouldn’t be a race to get to the end of the story. A book should be read at the pace that it’s written.

For example, Carrie¬†by Stephen King, I read in one sitting or a few hours. It was relatively small for a Stephen King novel, but the fast paced nature of the story is what led me to read it quickly. The author somewhat dictates how fast or slow you read the book, but the story also does that. ¬†For the books I’m required to read for school, though, I¬†deliberately take my time to savor and analyze the book. As I have¬†¬†learned from my first residency, there is a difference between reading as a reader and reader as a writer. I struggle automatically to differentiate the two while reading.

However, I’m not alone as it is a skill acquired with time and practice. It is easy to enjoy a story and read for pleasure. It is another to read from an academic point and analyze potential literature for archetypes and common themes. It is another point all together to read as a writer. It is completely different to read thinking about style, voice, and point of view. To understand how a writer wrote such a fantastic story from the inside is a task not easily handled. So, I have only delved 1/5 of the way through the world Enright has created.

I am following an Irish family as they suffer through one of many deaths. The main character, Veronica Hegarty, is suffering most from her brother’s suicide. Although, from the first few pages, their deranged mother seems to be suffering more than all of her remaining children combined. I think the casual nature that Enright brings in the dysfunction of the family appeals most to me. Everyone thinks they have the most dysfunctional family, until they look at the house next door or down the street. It is that familiarity that your family infuriates you (Veronica being the responsible one and having to take care of all the arrangements) and soothes you (hasn’t happened yet, but I hope it will) without you even realizing it. She depicts a playful relationships with the past and present of Veronica’s life in addition to an imaginative past of her grandparents’.

I am struck by how quintessential family can become in just a few chapters. It doesn’t have to relate at all to your own family because people always find¬†similarities¬†in the smallest things. It is simply the struggle of dealing with family and death that makes this book so easy to connect. Two elements that in one way or another shape every human being, every living creature on the planet. I look forward to each page, attempting to understand the bits of Irish culture embedded in the ¬†story as well as the overall feeling of Enright as a writer. If I do have the chance to meet Enright, I will surely faint for the sheer fact that she is an acclaimed Irish writer. More importantly, I will again be in awe of those much more experienced and eloquent doing the most valuable thing in the world, writing.

So, I leave you reader to return to The Gathering and coincidentally my cup of Irish Breakfast tea. Hope you will check out this little piece of Irish life as I prepare to write a paper about it.

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Life of A Grad Student: Not So Grand

So, a few days ago I posted about my life as a graduate student and how fun it is. Well, here is the opposite side of that coin.

Today, I sent off my first assignment of at least 10 pages of fiction.  Within 24 hours, I had a response from my lovely mentor. I was anxious and excited at the same time. Every minute of our workshop time, I was eating up every word she said. The experience and the stories she told were magical. The insight she gave into the stories I wrote revolutionized the way I looked at my own work.

At the same time, I’m constantly struggling with how well my writing is being received by those in the “biz”: published authors, professionals, and teachers. I have a fear like most writers that my stories aren’t going to be good enough for people to enjoy. But that is not important at this point because I’m just starting to hone my craft and it will take a lifetime to become a good writer.

As I open the e-mail, my mentor explains that the following notes are meant to teach me things that I will be able to apply to all my writing. I sigh in relief knowing that what lies ahead are a lot of little details I don’t know about yet. I feel like I’m back in grade school learning the rules of Grammar. ¬†I read through ¬†13 pages of my story, watching as my mentor solved all of the problems I had in the story.

See, I have problems putting too much detail, too much information in the ¬†story and not moving the action along enough. ¬†And Jane Boyer, my mentor, solved the problem for me in a few paragraphs. Now this skill of being able to know what belongs in a story no doubt comes with time and practice, which I have neither. At the end of my mentor’s assessment, she gave me comforting words that although my draft was rough, it was not the end of world. It won’t be the end of the world, I’m sure, but if I can’t learn to keep those pesky unneeded details out it will be.

The hardest part about the program is the ability to grow as a writer. I know all of the things I need to write, but I don’t know if I can write them well enough. I hate that I’m afraid of my own writing, but I guess it helps me to constantly improve myself.

What do you struggle with as writer? Is it developing a character or depicting the perfect scene? What advice do you have for me struggling with putting too much detail or others with their problems?

Always remember your purpose regardless of your struggles

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