"Imagine you are the object of your own poem."
Today on The Mark Blog is a PSA brought to you by Jade Sylvan on how to not write about women, a guide for men.
Well, this is it: the final blog post, the report on the Final Review, the last duty of The Mark Program. And what a wonderful Mark Program it has been. I still can’t believe that it’s ending.
In this 1975 short documentary "Henry Miller Asleep & Awake" writer Henry Miller takes a tour of his bathroom and his life.
Miller guides us through his bathroom, covered with photos and drawings collected by the author. He points out the highlights of both this gallery and his life in this documentary by Tom Schiller.
The thing about the end of The Mark Program is that I don’t know what comes next. Before this, there had been a number of logical steps: I completed my undergraduate degree, majoring in English; I participated in the PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship; I went to graduate school for creative writing; and, most recently, I got to be a part of The Mark Program, which is now coming to a close. The next step, I suspect, is not so structured or clear-cut. I’ve never done it before and I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but I sense that it requires giving myself time, space, and, most of all, creative freedom to let loose and do the one thing that’s left: finish writing my novel.
Last week, in my Final Review for The Mark Program, I had the privilege of discussing my novel-in-progress with the committee, comprised as usual of our instructor Antoine Wilson, advisor Rob Roberge, and Program Manager Libby Flores. During this hour-long conversation, I gleaned a lot of valuable feedback, including the illuminating advice from Antoine that I’ve already created a world, characters, and circumstances; now, in the latter portion of the novel, it’s time to let the will of the protagonist Lillian determine the outcomes of these dynamics. In other words, the events have occurred and Lillian must react and face the consequences. It sounds obvious but, to me, it wasn’t. Also, I’m encouraged by the fact that the committee members supported the developments in the narrator’s voice. The novel is more certain about the fact that it’s told by a 15-year-old and, as such, more fully embodies Lillian’s point-of-view than it was at the beginning of the program. In this way, the constructive criticism and positive support from The Mark committee is helping to make the journey between the current draft and the finished draft ever clearer and, simultaneously, less intimidating.
That’s not to say that I’m not afraid of the unknown. I am—while also knowing that I’m better equipped to face it than I was eight months ago. The Mark Program has forced me to know Lillian better, to ask and answer difficult questions, and to shape the present draft of Look Away so that it’s beginning, perhaps, to feel a tad like a real novel. From here, I’m going to give myself the creative freedom to take risks and write with openness and fluidity, into the unknown.
Lastly, thank you for reading my blogs for these past months. It’s been an honor to share with you and I hope we meet again on the page.
George Saunders gave a convocation speech at Syracuse University for the class of 2013. We love this speech about the importance and complexity of kindness. Here's an excerpt pulled from the 6th Floor Blog on the New York Times.
"Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place."
"Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?
...Those who were kindest to you, I bet."
Joan Didion will be awarded with PEN Center USA's Lifetime Achievement Award at the 23rd Annual Literary Awards Festival on October 14, 2013. Click here to find out more about the 23rd Annual Literary Awards Festival.
In this short film excerpt directed by Griffin Dunne, Joan Didion reads a selection from the first chapter of her memoir Blue Nights.
Joan Didion sat down with the Paris Review in 1977. In this great interview she talks about her process and the importance of a good first sentence.
I need an hour alone before dinner, with a drink, to go over what I've done that day. I can't do it late in the afternoon because I'm too close to it. Also, the drink helps. It removes me from the pages. So I spend this hour taking things out and putting other things in. Then I start the next day by redoing all of what I did the day before, following these evening notes. When I'm really working I don't like to go out or have anybody to dinner, because then I lose the hour. If I don't have the hour, and start the next day with just some bad pages and nowhere to go, I'm in low spirits. Another thing I need to do, when I'm near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it. That's one reason I go home to Sacramento to finish things. Somehow the book doesn't leave you when you're asleep right next to it. In Sacramento nobody cares if I appear or not. I can just get up and start typing.
What's so hard about that first sentence is that you're stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence. And by the time you've laid down the first two sentences, your options are all gone.
The first is the gesture, the second is the commitment.
Yes, and the last sentence in a piece is another adventure. It should open the piece up. It should make you go back and start reading from page one. That's how it should be, but it doesn't always work. I think of writing anything at all as a kind of high-wire act. The minute you start putting words on paper you're eliminating possibilities. Unless you're Henry James.
Today on The Mark Blog we have the only full version of an interview with the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
"The two things that people always want to ask me...
...How I ever came to write the Sherlock Holmes stories... the other is about how I came to have psychic experiences..."
Bookmark this article from The Atlantic: Prodigy envy isn't a new thing. The article states, "Young writers have always been angsty about the ever-waning time left to become a literary wunderkind."
"The feeling of having hoped you'd be further along by age x is pretty common, whether the yardstick is in financial success or artistic achievement and critical acclaim (and often young writers aren't sure which they value more). This is evidently one of the reasons the coming of Girls has been such an emotional experience for viewers with literary or artistic aspirations: Character Hannah Horvath is going through a rough time becoming the "voice of [her] generation." But the star and the creator of the show, Lena Dunham, has just won her second Golden Globe Award, writes off and on for the New Yorker, and received a $3.7 million advance to write a book for Random House. She's 26. Jeez, what have the rest of us been doing?"