If you ever work with me in the workshop, you will have to process my critical responses to your writing. Some students feel overwhelmed by my responses, find them incredibly negative, but please understand that I live for the moments when I may unabashedly praise my students! However, I shall never praise you unless praise is truly warranted; more importantly, I’ll never level negative criticism unless it, too, is truly warranted.
There is a kind of story in which a narrator’s regard for another character is the focus, the primary reason for the narrative to exist. Some of you read The Great Gatsby in high school. Remember how mysterious, how intriguing Gatsby seemed to the narrator, the young guy who happened to rent a small house next door to Gatsby’s gaudy mansion? Can you see the parallel to the narrator/boss’s regard for Bartleby? There are many stories that take such a basic form. Many love stories have a similar dynamic; a mysterious “other” is often the focus of stories across the genres and sub-genres (even “superhero” stories). My point here is that if you (consciously or unconsciously) begin to conceive of a story in which such a dynamic is at play, “Bartleby the Scrivener” should echo through the dark chambers of your noggin! Read More
Sometimes, to create a sense of verisimilitude we over-describe, and usually do so regarding the most mundane activities, like getting a character from her car to the door of her house, through the door and into her house.
I mean, if a character (in either a fiction or nonfiction narrative) approaches her or his apartment door and pulls a keychain from her or his pocket, do we (your readers) need to know that that character then chose the appropriate key, pushed that key into the lock, turned the key, then turned the doorknob and pushed open the door? Well, consider the following:
From Richard Katrovas: My rants are off-the-cuff mini-lectures on topics relevant to students of both fiction and nonfiction writing. When I teach “hybrid” writing workshops–classes that meet only six times in the classroom over the course of a semester–I send these ephemeral ditties to my students as follow-ups to our spirited, if infrequent, class discussions. The ones included here are general enough to make sense, I hope, to folks who were not privy to the conversations that spawned them.
As we come upon our 25th anniversary session, Richard Katrovas (PSP founder and director) and Ema Katrovas (PSP coordinator) reflect on the historical context of these past 25 years of the Prague Summer Program for Writers. Read More
The Golem, through his agent, agreed to meet me on the bank of the Vltava, below Vyšehrad, at 6 a.m. on a Friday. It was late fall; the sky was turning from black to gray, the moon was pale and almost full, and the air was crisp. The Golem climbed lugubriously from the river, stood dripping on the cement dock before the green bench, overlooking the water, on which I waited. The Golem, eight-feet tall and svelte (for a monster), dropped gently to his knees, sat back on his haunches, dipped his chin in silent salutation. He smelled of mellow rot.
The following essay is from a book the PSP program director Richard Katrovas is working on: Chained to a Tree: A Memoir in Essays about Poets and the Fools Who Love Them. About the essay he says: “The project is still fluid; that is, I’m still fiddling, fixing, still moving words, phrases, paragraphs around. My concern in the book is not so much American Poetry as American poets, people I’ve known through the years, some famous (in a poetry kind of way), some not. My larger concern is creative writing as a cottage industry within high education, though my deeper concern is the mysterious world of poets and writers, how they constitute an often ignoble tribe pursuing noble, if quixotic, ends. I’m discovering, in the twilight of my odd life and modest career, that the run of luck that has gotten me to this point has been nothing short of miraculous, and my consequent blessings manifold.” We share this recently-written piece in the spirit of the Prague Summer Program as an organization centered on the honesty and vulnerability of sharing work in progress.