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Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

A New Yorker Reject!

I read “Shouts and Murmurs” in the New Yorker online every day, admit that some border on the incomprehensible, but nonetheless enjoy their characteristic quirky wit.  Thus inspired, I decided to write one.  Yesterday, three months after I’d forgotten I submitted it, I received the typical one-sentence rejection.  Not a problem, I’ll just put it up on the blog, with which I am criminally negligent.

Those who have taught adult ed. writing classes are likely to relate.  😉

Adult Ed. Creative Writing 100

Announcements

Class time has been changed from 7:00 to 7:16 to accommodate Ms. Mallinkrodt’s propensity to an allergic reaction triggered by the minutes between 7:00 and 7:15.

The malady has persisted despite, as you may have noticed, her practice of wearing full hazmat gear and horse blinders since Arbor Day.  Clearly, sensitivity demands that the other 14 members of the class reschedule cocktails, child care and the length of time it takes to get to our classroom from the parking lot before the lights go out and that maintenance guy in clown makeup starts reciting haiku about killing his mother.

Congratulations to Mr. Antrobus, whose short story nobody was able to read because it was in Uyghur, for nonetheless successfully publishing it in the online anthology, Voices of Diversity.  Apparently the story, مەنئى قىلىنعان, has something to do with sex slavery in the Dervish shoe industry.

And while on that topic, please continue to ignore Mrs. DeWitt’s spirited recitation of Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” in response to any mention of sex in your narratives.

We appreciate Mrs. D’s cooperation after members of our Spiritual Freedom Caucus threatened to burn her car if she didn’t cease reciting the entirety of Leviticus every time one of your characters says or thinks the “f” word.  “Trees” is happily shorter than Leviticus.

And of course we all thank Mrs. DeWitt for her gift to the class of 400 cross-shaped bookmarks lovingly decorated in sparkly pastel acrylic yarn on plastic canvas.

In response to Father Dacri’s reaction to the bookmarks, a 7,000-word discourse on the Crucifixion in the Gospel of Luke (emailed to the entire class, the Pope and, for some reason, Leonardo DiCaprio), I think we’re all aware that 1st century Roman crosses were neither plastic, sparkly nor pink.  Shall we grant Mrs. DeWitt a bit of poetic license?

Let’s not forget what happened last week when Mr. Brandt objected to Ms. Satterthwaite’s incorrect use of the Pathetic Fallacy in chapter three of her experimental novel, The Anguish of Lawnmowers.

Fortunately, doctors are saying Mr. Brandt may regain at least partial use of his left eye within a year, and Ms. Satterthwaite has sent a note reminding us that flowers are seen as “totally lame” at the county jail, requesting gifts of clean underwear and vintage topographical maps of Finland instead.

Just a reminder that during the first hour of our next class, Mr. Shapiro, Mr. Blakely-Morris and Mrs. Coppinger will do a staged reading, in costume, of their work-in-progress about suicide among laboratory mice.

Due to the heartbreaking nature of the material, they have asked Dr. Farley for once not to blast Fauré’s Requiem from his iPhone in the coffee lounge during the break, as it invariably results in Ms. Conger sobbing and rending her garments over excessive use of the caesura in Emily Dickinson.  Apparently Exercise Wheel of Sorrow employs a great many caesuras and they fear Fauré may push Ms. Conger over the edge.

In the second hour we’ll critique Rabbi O’Malley’s humorous essay spoofing the evolution of the medieval tabard from the 13th century to its current popularity among school crossing guards.

It should be noted that Rabbi O’Malley credits Dr. Farley’s fictional biography of Jiminy Cricket (which, you will recall, we critiqued the evening Mrs. Farley dropped the class in outrage over the absence of Gyokuro tea in the lounge vending machine) as inspiration for his sudden obsession with costume of the Middle Ages.

We applaud both our class members’ creativity despite the facts that Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio wasn’t published until the late 19th century and thus has nothing to do with tabards or the Middle Ages, the cricket was unnamed in the original work and the adorable Disney character with which we are all familiar is actually a grasshopper.

This cross-pollination of ideas is the very essence of the creative writing class, and in celebration of our mutual receptivity I will ask each of you to imagine five possible dramatic plots inspired by the word, “century.”

Mrs. DeWitt has volunteered to sew a tiny Crusader’s tabard for Ms. Conger’s parrot, whose sporadic in-class squawking of Emmeline Pankhurst’s “Freedom or Death” speech we all enjoy, offering further evidence of reciprocal creativity in our dynamic class!

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Writing About Doctors

Characters get sick, get shot, fall from cliffs. They imbibe interesting poisons, bathe with hairdryers and are pulled at the last second from disasters in abandoned factories, windmills and crypts. The list of ills to which characters are heir is limitless. But a few survive, necessitating scenes in which a doctor must say… something.

Then there are characters who actually are doctors, not infrequently created by writers who aren’t. These fictional docs require backstories, professional personæ and a halfway believable familiarity with the medical world.

In both instances we (non-medical) writers fall back on our own experiences with doctors for dialogue and presentation. This can be problematic if we’re writing a character’s last moments in an oncology unit (Will she finally disclose the name of the twins’ real father before she flatlines?) and our sole medical contact for the last eight years has been with a veterinarian. The character expiring in the oncology unit isn’t there because she didn’t take her heartworm pills, and our fictional doc can’t stand around with a syringe somberly suggesting euthanasia. Searching for anything resembling accurate information that’s also comprehensible, we may read novels about doctors by doctors (in which the renegade good doc invariably pits her/himself against the arrogant, alcoholic/drug-addicted, philandering, embezzler bad doc who happens to run the hospital) or biographies of doctors (“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”) It’s all very time-consuming and rarely provides the sort of quick, authentic, insider detail that can give even a minor character legs. And who has time to do much research on minor characters, anyway?

Singular Intimacies But eureka. Through the usual strange set of circumstances, a Bellevue social worker named Kari Wolf recently insisted that I read a book called Singular Intimacies by a Bellevue doctor named Danielle Ofri. This surprisingly open chronicle of the doctor’s professional arc has been widely reviewed, and this is not a book review. This is a gasp of relief. Because Ofri’s book is a wry, realistic, sometimes-scary and/or heartbreaking but always honest Rosetta Stone for writers who need to write about doctors. Just think – one book!  And check out the link (in Blogroll) to Ofri’s NYT columns, also a goldmine of interesting and useful-to-writers information.

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