Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Squaw Valley or Bust

A few weeks ago, I received some good news: I’ve been accepted to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and will be attending the fiction workshop in July.  I can’t wait!  Writers and conversation on the northern shore of Lake Tahoe, where I have never been—what could be better?

Me outside the old Borders store in Ann Arbor--
a tribute to yesterday's method of finding books.  
I’ll tell you: prep reading.  I treated myself to an afternoon at the library yesterday, trolling the shelves for books by Squaw Valley faculty and finding a stack so large it left red marks on my wrists even after I got home.  I knew that Squaw Valley faculty were worth their salt from my copyediting (three times!) the book WritersWorkshop in a Book, edited by Alan Cheuse and Lisa Alvarez.  The essays—all of them by Squaw Valley faculty—range from trying to start a novel that isn’t ready to be started (Lynn Freed’s essay) to knowing when a novel is done (Mark Childress).  There are essays on writing that appeals to the senses (Janet Fitch) and on details that bring the writing to life (Joanne Meschery).  It’s a great book on craft, varied and accessible and saturated with wisdom earned through experience.  But before I go to the workshop and get firsthand exposure to such advice, I want to take a look at the faculty not as craft advisors but as practitioners of their own art. 

So, from now until I leave for Squaw Valley in July, I plan to read as much as I can of the faculty I hope to meet.  This reading can’t be comprehensive—too many books, too little time—so be aware that my personal bias towards novels has already made me pass over some (no doubt) very fine nonfiction.  What I end up reading will be some combination of synopses that hooked me and the fate of which books fall into my hands.  First up is Ron Carlson’s Five Skies, which I read last week, followed by Mark Childress’s Georgia Bottoms, which I’m part way through.  Stay tuned to the blog for thoughts on each, and I hope you’ll keep reading as I report on my experience with the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.  It just might lead you to some great summer reading of your own.

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