Archive | June, 2012

“Easy Reading” v. “Serious Fiction”

28 Jun
Books

Easy reading? Or serious fiction?

If you haven’t already read the New York Times blog post by Gary Gutting, I highly recommend it. There are some great quotes in this short piece, but below is my favorite:

“But why should we think that what is hard to read is not enjoyable?  Here there is a striking difference between the way we regard mental and physical activities.  Running marathons, climbing mountains and competing at high levels in tennis or basketball are very difficult things to do, but people get immense enjoyment from them.  Why should the intellectual work of reading “The Sound and the Fury” or “Pale Fire” be any less enjoyable?   If I take pleasure only in the ‘light fiction’ of mysteries, thrillers or romances, I am like someone who enjoys no physical activities more challenging than walking around the block or sitting in a rocking chair.  Vigorous intellectual activity is itself a primary source of pleasure—and pleasure of greater intensity and satisfaction than that available from what is merely ‘easy reading’.”

What are your thoughts on genre novels v. literary fiction? In the summer, do you tend to read “light fiction” or do you try to tackle the big tomes you’ve neglected to read all year?

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The John Updike Archive at Harvard

27 Jun
John Updike (1932 - 2009)

John Updike (1932 – 2009)

After work today I joined some writer friends to go see the John Updike archive at Harvard’s Houghton Library.

Leslie Morris, Houghton’s curator of modern books and manuscripts, is quoted in the Harvard Gazette as saying that the items on display, including two of Updike’s rough drafts, “[help] you understand where he came from, how he developed in the ways that he did.”

Seeing one of his rough drafts marked up in red pencil in the same way that I mark up my own rough drafts reminded me that the drudgery of the writing, rewriting, tweaking, rewriting and so on is a process that all writers – even the most prolific – go through.

The archives also contained typed correspondence to Updike from John Cheever, Philip Roth and Kurt Vonnegut. You can glean certain information from the letters, but I would have liked to have seen a few of Updike’s letters in response to these other writers.

Although I’m glad that I got to see the archives (and the Houghton Library – well worth the visit, by the way, and free), I did feel disappointed that there wasn’t more to see and absorb. Perhaps I’m comparing Updike’s archive with one I saw recently, in April, when I viewed the more extensive David Foster Wallace archive on display at the Harry Ransom Center at UT-Austin. Wallace’s archive is fascinating and devastating, and well worth seeing if you happen to live in or visit the Austin area.

Overall, my takeaway from today was something I already know, which is that the best writers have talent, yes, but they also work incredibly hard to get their work from draft to publication. It motivates me to keep working and improving my fiction.

Squaw Valley Community of Writers 2012

26 Jun

Just two weeks from now I’ll be participating in the Squaw Valley writers conference in California. This will be my first conference and I’m excited, but admittedly a bit anxious, too. I do feel incredibly lucky that I was accepted and awarded the William Turnbull Memorial Scholarship. Since I will be flying in from Boston, the scholarship made it possible for me to attend.

squaw_valley

Squaw Valley in summer.

I’ve looked over the schedule for the conference, and it looks jam-packed almost every day. I’d like to take advantage of every opportunity, so I have a feeling I won’t be sleeping much. But that’s OK. I don’t expect this to be a vacation as much as a camp for writers: after all, I will be sleeping in a bunk bed.

In the meantime, I’ve been heavily revising the story I plan on submitting for workshop. I want to bring something that I’m relatively happy with, or at the very least, something that doesn’t horrify me. Because the conference is affiliated with two very good MFA programs (UC-Irvine and UC-Riverside) and seems like it is one of the more well-known of the various conferences around the country, I do expect the level of work will be of a certain quality, all of which puts added pressure on me to bring my best work.

I hope to continue to make updates here of my experiences at Squaw, and upload photos of what I expect will be a stunning (and inspirational) landscape.

Allow Me to Introduce Myself…

25 Jun
E.M. Santiago

Hello!

Welcome to my blog! I haven’t had much success in the past with this blog writing thing, but I thought I’d give it another try. This time I think I can make it work. Why? Because this blog will be more focused, more of an exploration of my writing process, things I’ve learned (and continue to learn) along the way, things I’ve read, conversations I’ve had about the writing process – all things writing related. So if you’re the kind of nerd (like me) who loves to read, write, and read about writing, then this blog may interest you.

About me: I’m a 32-year-old woman living happily in Cambridge. I work in a high stress job that is rewarding at times, but also incredibly draining. Writing fiction allows me to decompress and use my imagination; it allows me to forget about all the other things that need my attention and forces me to focus solely on words: what they mean and what they imply, how they should be arranged, how they sound together, one by one, one word in front of the other. Some days writing is what gets me through one day and into the next.

Thank you for reading.

Tracy Staedter

Science writing, editing and workshops

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