Last week, stories were on my mind, but there’s a lot more going on in my writing life. I have a hard deadline for my application for a writing residency in New Orleans; I submitted a piece to my writing workshop that is meant to serve as my writing sample, and got great feedback that I need to incorporate into a new draft. I have until nearly the end of the month, but the piece has been sitting long enough, it’s time to get my hands dirty again.
Another important piece of feedback from my workshop was that the story seems to be starting too late; in the previous first chapter, Simon gets the phone call that begins his return to the South. There is nothing established about his relationship with the South, with Montréal, with his family. These things need to be present in the reader’s mind so that the gravity of his journey south is understood.
Since getting this feedback, I have been envisioning the novel in three parts: Montréal, Louisiana, and back. I have been working to flesh out part one and provide motivation for Simon: why did he leave, why has he never been back, who is he and what is his relationship with his place of birth and the place he has chosen to make his life? His relationships with people are clearer in my mind, I really need to dig into how he feels about Home, and what that means to him.
A lot of these feelings have been coming out as I explore the past in my storytelling workshop. I don’t know how much of the past will end up in the novel, I want it to have the immediacy of being set in a “present” time, the past being referenced in anecdotes or perhaps flashbacks. Still, it has been fun to explore these old memories, and discover how much lies beneath the surface. For instance, if I’m telling someone a story from my past, I’ll recall the major events, but it’s only in the telling that other details I thought I’d forgotten begin to emerge. I’ve been doing a lot of free writing to suss out some of those details.
The main storytelling project will be the story I’ll perform at the end of the workshop, and I’m doing work on that week after week and looking forward to each meeting on Monday night for more guidance and encouragement. I’m excited to perform this evolving tale, I’m tapping into high school experience, speech and debate, band, I’ve been on stage before and felt exhilarated by that energy. Really, it’s just telling a story to strangers, and I do that all the time already.
I attended another schmoozer October 30 in a silly mask I picked up at Pharmaprix: all red and black and clearly designed for a woman, with a matching lace collar and big, red jewels made of plastic. This was a joint event by QWF and ELAN, so there were artists present from many disciplines. I spoke with a translator, a juggler, a musician; we all do the same thing in different ways, and it was nice to spend a couple hours chatting with other creative folk. Maybe I’ll convince myself to bring my business cards next time, and stop telling people, “Well, I haven’t actually written anything yet,” when I really mean that I’m unpublished. Not for lack of trying, this has been a great year for getting myself out there!