Arriving at Reynolds is like entering a time warp. The days here are so jam-packed full of good things that they feel—on the one hand—very long. On the other hand, they can also feel too short—there’s never enough time to squeeze everything in!
Monday was our first full day of writing goodness! Fortified by a well-balanced breakfast (and coffee) in Curtis Dining Hall, we headed over to Barney-Davis for morning announcements and broke into our genre classes—poetry, fiction, and fiction/creative nonfiction. These classes are perhaps as exciting for the TAs as the students. Ali Stine shared lots of really wonderful poems, and gave us an assignment to write some of our own–using the tabloids for inspiration. Pretty rad!
In the afternoon, we broke into our cross-writing sessions, and so poets got a chance to try to write some prose, and prose writers had an opportunity to try their hand at nonfiction.
After cross-writing, we had the awesome opportunity to try out translation in an awesome workshop led by Peter Grandbois, Denison professor and author of The Gravedigger, The Arsenic Lobster: A Hybrid Memoir, and Nahoonkara.
Grandbois helped us get down to the nitty-gritty nuances of language–we got a chance to see how important and crucial words and their connotations can be, and how different words have different weights and registers and emotional effects and implications. We discussed how, when working with translation, all those meanings are within the realm of possibility. We talked about how to negotiate between sound and sense: as translators, how can we remain truthful to the meaning of the original work, while at the same time not having to sacrifice lyricism, or the way things sound?
Grandbois asked us to think about how, in both prose and poetry, “each word educates the next word; each line educates the next line; each sentence the next sentence; each stanza the next stanza.”
Grandbois also asked us to think about how, as writers, we are all about specific, vivid, concrete imagery/ Sometimes, that imagery isn’t built of the first words that come to mind. As Grandbois said, “The first word that comes to mind often is not the best one. Usually it’s the sixth or seventh or eighth word; the first word is usually a cliché.” Trial and error, as well as persistence, are necessary both in translation and in writing original work.
And, as if that was not enough for one day, we had the wonderful opportunity to hear Margot Singer read to us as the sun set over the treetops visible from the Barney-Davis Board Room.
After an inspirational reading, writers had an opportunity to ask Dr. Singer questions. Here are just a few words of wisdom Dr. Singer shared with us:
“Read widely and hungrily; read like a writer.”
“Reading is the way to get out of a writing rut.”
“A Zen archers look a little off target, not right at the target. Writing is a little like that.”
“An ending should not be wrapped up with a big bow. If it does, it often feels contrived.”
“End with an image.”