Friday, July 31, 2009

The Separation Anxiety Blues

My writing group is taking a break. It was a good run, but I’m ready to give it a rest for a while. For the last meeting they critiqued 35 pages of my new novel. I had rushed to finish that much to hand out. It has some problems, some first-draft woe. Such as lack of characterization and long scenes where I lovingly describe apartment interiors and the finer points of videocassettes. My hapless protagonist is getting sucked into the potentially lucrative but certainly questionable business of pornography. So apartments and videocassettes (it’s 1994) play a huge role. Okay, not so huge, but it’s only a first draft. I’ll save the chapters’ worth of living room, bedroom, and kitchen description for my book of linked stories on indoor living.

My group, called Council, or Mini Council, or Secret Mini Council, is an off-shoot of a Grub Street novel workshop where many of us met, first hand or by a couple degrees. The Mini Council is an extension of this class, in many, but certainly not all, ways. Every other Thursday we met at a member’s home in JP, after having read up to 100 pages of one or two writers' work.

Two weeks is a perfect length of time to read 100 pages. For me, anyway. I’m a sort-of slow reader. And we’re reading with an editorial eye for structure, syntax, dialogue, pacing, plot, character, all that good stuff. So this adds a layer of…reading to the reading. I always come away with some points to make, some helpful (hopefully) suggestions. But I’m amazed at what the other Mini Council members bring to the discussion. Details about motive or structure I just never considered, never imagined, had no idea existed. It always makes me want to go back and read the pages again. I’m still learning, still building my critical eye.

With the Mini Council on hiatus I can concentrate on other reading. Such as a literary journal that I’m supposed to be reviewing for The Review Review website. I’ve had this issue for a few months now, and I still haven’t finished it. Granted, it’s a double issue, thick with review-fodder such as a 100-page tribute to David Foster Wallace. Also, I tend to ignore reading for pleasure more when I’m in Mini Council. Actually, that’s not true. I just do less of it.

But at the moment I’ve fallen out of the reading habit. I’ve lost that readin’ feeling. Must. Get. Back. And I will. I’ve got about three books started, and I just have to finish those up, and move on to the next. Soon I’m off for a week’s vacation, and that’s when I’ll break this cycle of non-reading. I get a lot done down there (away from here) and so will be sure to pack plenty covers, soft and hard. I may even bring my laptop to get some writing done.

I miss the Mini Council already. But it will be back in the fall, in some form. I may join in the games, or I might take another Grub class. Or, I may lay low and just do the writing. Who can say? I like being coy. I’m the coy narrator. Actually, coy narrators drive me bats. Don’t do this at home, kids.


Randy Susan Meyers said...

I will miss you, Dell!

Liz's Mom said...

Loved your essay.

We have repaired the deck, so when you sit out there with your book or your laptop, you will be safe.

Dell Smith said...

The Council, mini or otherwise, shall live on ad infinitum.

Thank you Liz's Mom, I can't wait!

Cynthia Sherrick said...

Enjoy your vacation! Reading and writing on the Vineyard sounds like the perfect getaway. :)