What Did You Learn?

Wah, wah, wah, it’s hard to be around a bunch of fucking writers. Nobody cares. What did I learn?

From the memoir panel:

1. We often think the truth is the most obvious simple thing that 6 year olds blurt out constantly, but in fact scientists and scholars will tell you that the only way to arrive to truth is through painstaking work (Richard Hoffman).

2. Expository writing is a man on the stage telling us what happened, what the background of the event was, and how we felt about it all. But how much more compelling is a movie camera that pans over three people talking and lingers on the pained expression on one woman’s face? The camera leads us through the scenes, shows us what to focus on, and gives the writer “freedom from [the] struggle to make meaning” (Meredith Hall).

2a. This is like Socratic thinking. Sure you can tell the student what is wrong with her writing, but if you lead her to the realization through questions and examples, she is a hell of a lot more likely to remember the issue (Yours Truly).

3. Writing about adversity should challenge readers to change the goddamned situation (Hoffman).

4. The ending of a “braided” essay must be strong enough, otherwise the reader won’t trust the writer and her mind (Grad Friend during coffee date before panel).

5. Because writers of a good memoir choose details to tell a story, rather than tell the reader All Things, the writer must be ready to make a story out of our subject (Hall).

6. The story you might be telling might not be someone else’s trauma, but rather why you the writer feel compelled to write about someone else’s trauma (from the questions).

From the race and poetry panel:

1. Note to self: Read A Sense of Regard: Essays on Poetry and Race.

2. Metaphors that work to help clarify one’s own thinking do not always translate for the audience. I have this problem a lot.

3. Everyone was scared about what to write for this panel, which made this panel much better than Famous Nonfiction Panel I will walk out of the following day.

4. Teaching only black poetry in class is a great way to break down white supremacist language.

5. One shouldn’t coopt experiences, but in fact I can write about why I feel so compelled to write about race (see 6 above).

6. Your innocence or silence will not protect you. “I didn’t realize that was offensive!” is no longer a viable excuse for an educated human in the 21st century.

7. The word “diversity” is a placeholder, so general as to be meaningless.

8. This was a panel about teaching, and was super interesting, but I was looking for a panel about craft.

From the Nonfiction of Famous Writers panel:

1. The room was so packed the fire marshall should have kicked us all out.

2. Someone told his friend, “good luck” at the door and I could hear it all the way up in the nosebleed seats. Acoustics are cool.

3. Claudia Rankine can write Citizen to “disturb” the sentence or to break down the text. I am still trying to find my story. This is what it is like to write a nonfiction book after four or five other books rather than as your first/second book.

4. People tell me to take out research, but in fact these famous writers tell me to put it back in.

5. “Conversations” are bullshit panels because no one prepares for them. They are just talking from the top of their heads. This is why these guys use research. They are much more interesting when talking about research. 

6. Conversations with new and old friends are often just as educational if not more so than panels.


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