Today marks the beginning of another school year and my second year in graduate school. This semester I was lucky enough to only have one workshop and one literature course–and LOTS of free time, which is good because I have one hell of a reading list to deal with.
I know that those who worked with me last year and are returning will find my writing significantly different than what they have seen before. Possibly because now I have more time to write things I enjoy, or maybe because I’ve grown a bit as a writer in the past few months. Before summer, the second year grad students who have now moved on told me not to worry about how much writing I finish over the summer (which totaled one and a half stories), that my writing would drastically improve and change on it’s own. I am not sure why this is the case, but I believe it’s true, and I’m excited to see what the other second years show up with.
As for class, I volunteered to go first which means I have to show up with a 11 copies of my story and prepare for the brutal honesty the following week. Should be fun! Especially since I was fairly quiet last year and my writing preference have grown darker than the old lady looking for a second chance. No, I actually want to enjoy writing this year, not just try to survive it.
In a workshop, three people usually submit a story each time and everyone gets a week to read, re-read, and comment on their work. They usually do a line-by-line edit on the actual hard copy and then provide a big-picture critique, roughly a page, discussing themes, characters, plot, etc. Then we spend about a half hour discussing each story, sometimes more or less depending on what the professor also has planned.
All last year, each class was solely critiquing stories (which is great and all, but you don’t learn very much outside of what to improve on that one story). This year I am excited to actually have some outside reading, including the book The Lord of Misrule and a course packet containing excerpts from numerous books including Emma and The Road.
What will be really unique about our workshop this semester is that we have students who are not actually studying fiction, but also non-fiction (or literary journalism). I have a background in journalism so I’m looking forward to seeing what they produce and how we critique it in class since no one can suggest changes to events or characters. It will definitely be something I address later.
But for now, I’m excited to start again and seriously frightened about what everyone will think of my story. That’s the funny thing about workshop–a constant state of fear about both criticism of your work and how people will take the criticism you provide for theirs!