It’s a funny thing about my career that I never even attended a writing seminar before I published a novel. That doesn’t mean I didn’t study the craft in other ways—reading mostly, then a practice novel—but I didn’t do conferences, or critique groups, let alone an MFA.
I’ve often wondered if I missed something there. I mean, of course I know I did miss something. What I mean is something more in the vein of essential to my writing. Would I be the same writer today if I’d taken a different path? An unknowable question unless someone finally gets on inventing that time machine I’ve been asking for.
Since I’ve become a writer, I’ve attended many conferences and heard many people speak about writing and their process. But until last weekend, when I was at the Jackson Hole Writers Conference—a fantastic conference I highly recommend—I’d never done a group writing exercise. I ended up doing this in a class offered by Tiffanie Debartolo (God Shaped Hole, How to Kill a Rock Star), about using things from real life and turning it into fiction. Tiffanie didn’t mean write about yourself, the exercise she gave us was this: think of your father. Think of three characteristics he has. Now imagine a woman who works in a diner who has those three characteristics. She’s waiting for a customer to come in, one she has a crush on. Write the scene.
My curiosity was piqued. Something about this prompt sparked something in me. I wrote down three characteristics about my dad: drinking, mathematician, hates Celine Dion. And this is the scene I wrote in the ten minutes that was given: [Read more…]