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Snapping the sheet

GC and I signed up for a short story writing course called Snapping the Sheet. It’s taught by Joanne Proulx, who wrote a novel called Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet, which is about a 17-year-old stoner who becomes known as The Prophet of Death.

The course consists of five weekly two-hour classes. The emphasis is on decluttering your writing. Snapping the sheet. Getting rid of excess adjectives and adverbs. Getting right to the heart of what you want to say and saying it.

The teacher’s very good and I’m learning useful things, but there are some structural problems with the course.

First of all, five classes is not enough. The course just began, and already it’s almost over.

There are fifteen students – five men, ten women. Each week we spend the first hour reading our work out loud and critiquing it. An hour isn’t long enough to read and critique the work of fifteen people, so we just do the most eager people. This tends to be the men, except for GC, who doesn’t want to be critiqued because he hasn’t done his homework.

Some of the women are eager too. I’m not one of them, even though I’ve done my homework. It’s not the critiquing that intimidates me, it’s the reading out loud. My throat constricts and I can’t simultaneously get words out and oxygen in. I never volunteer, and we tend to run out of time before I can be asked to read. This is good in a way, but not so good in another way.

My story is about two sisters who find something in the closet.

10 comments to Snapping the sheet

  • gc

    Doh! I hope our teacher doesn’t read your blog. I tried to do my homework but I just couldn’t get anything on the paper. See, I have a hard time writing but I have no problem reading out loud. I wouldn’t slink under the table if I had something well written. You ALWAYS have something well written. Maybe I should read yours for you. What a good team we make. Next time let’s take a math course!

  • Thanks so much for writing about your class. I’m with you, I would have a terrible time reading anything out loud and I would never volunteer, even though I think I would be OK with (constructive) criticism.
    Overall it sounds worthwhile though. And GC is sweet – will you take him up on his offer to read your work for you?

  • GC, I don’t think she reads my blog, but maybe some day she’ll google herself, stumble across this post, and find out you didn’t do your homework. We’ll be studying calculus by then. 😉

    Finola, he is sweet. I might take him up on his offer, but then everyone in the class will know how lame I am that I can’t even read my own writing out loud. I don’t mind YOU guys knowing that, but I don’t want them knowing it.

  • Gwen

    Ahh stage fright. I totally understand that.

  • Cool. I took a class from her. She’s excellent, clear, knowledgeable and skilled at facilitating a group.

  • Tom Sawyer

    Oh, yes: The lively art of writing. (I know that was a book we read in high school–or were supposed to.)

    Writing–and good writing, too–doesn’t necessarily mean performance beyond the page. Who said writing had to be a concert as well? When’s the last time you opened a book and the author herself mumbled her monologue aloud?

    To hell & back with that!

    Shit, Zoom, why not post your piece here about the two sisters and what they find in the closet and let your loyal blog readers critique it? What’s the worse that can happen?

    One catch: Insist we post anonymously–so we can be free.

    You may be surprised. After all, if your fiction is like your blog, you may soar with snapping sheets as your cape.

  • XUP

    Do you want me to come along and read out loud for you?

  • grace

    I was going to suggest that you take XUP with you!

  • We need a writing group. A small one where everyone who wants to can read and get feedback.
    I keep thinking I should start something. I even tried and we met a few times before it fizzled out.
    But some day, I will have a writing group.