Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Sentence...starring You!

A view at the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop

On the last day of workshop at Squaw Valley, novelist Mark Childress gave us an interesting icebreaker: write a sentence introducing yourself as though you were a fictional character.  Of course, by that point in the week, my workshop group knew one another well, but the faculty rotates daily, and so Mark was new to us and we to him (you can read my pre-SV impressions of him here).  That was one of my favorite aspects of Squaw Valley—the opportunity to hear thoughts from writers, editors, and agents in workshop and to experience different workshop styles within the single week.

It’s a challenge to put yourself in a sentence.  Some went for straight biography; others more for the feeling of a fictional opening.  Nobody went for “Call me __NAME__.”  Still, it's great fun to hear how people you know would describe themselves.  My sentence went like this:

People liked to call her old-fashioned, but she wasn’t yet 30 and liked to check her email as much as anyone else, even when she knew there would be nothing more than a graduate listserv update that no longer applied to her.

What would yours look like?  Please feel free to post your own introduction as a fictional character in the comments below.

And while you’re cooking up your sentence, here are a few more introductory sentences—my own impressions of writers I met at Squaw Valley whose books, also listed, are now on my reading list. You might pick up a title or two for your own reading list.  And if it sounds like I left Squaw Valley a little starstruck, well...I did.

Sands Hall: Catching Heaven
Sharp in intellect and appearance, bright with an actress’s flair for pleasing, she took the stage not to read or to mimic but to play the acoustic guitar slung casually round her neck.

Ramona Ausubel: No One Is Here Except For All of Us
Her face shone with a hope and youth that the Israelites she wrote about must once have felt, themselves a young, yet chosen, nation.

Gregory Spatz: Fiddler’s Dream
He wondered what to do—write novels or make music?—but his talent answered for him: do both.  “And,” Lady Talent continued, “see to it that you add a good dose of bluegrass to each.”

Varley O’Connor: The Master’s Muse
Now dictating discussion, now disappearing from it, now speaking, now listening, she took the workshop in hand and turned with it like a dancer supply shifting her weight.  

Of all the clever things it came to her to say, for her mind worked easily and her humor was lively, she peered from beneath the shade of her ballcap as if peering back from the cool solace of publication and said simply, “Young author, take heart.”

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