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Pickle Me This

July 27, 2010

Grains of salt

Sometimes, when I really want to die a little bit inside, I sit back and take stock of all the bad advice that I’ve given out in creative writing workshops. Like when someone referred to a “bird of paradise” in a story, and I wrote: “Be more specific. What KIND of bird? How is it paradiscial? SHOW ME!”. When I told the (now published, very successful) poet who knew exactly what it was she did, “You’ve sort of written yourself into a rut. Why not try something different? PROSE???” Every time I thought that me not understanding a term or concept was a reason the writer should think about changing it.

The very first story Rebecca Rosenblum workshopped in our Masters program had a reference to a baby “squalling.” Never having heard this term beyond the snowstorm variety, I wrote, “Wrong word. Do you mean ‘wailing’?” Rebecca is now my dear friend, and we’ve never talked about this, mostly because I’m still absolutely embarrassed.

It’s amazing, the kind of authority I’ve assumed in these sorts of situations. And all the things, and words, I never knew, and never even knew I was missing. There certainly is a reason why a grain of salt or two should go with everything, in particular  if that everything is a bit of advice from me.

One thought on “Grains of salt”

  1. m says:

    Have you read Stripmalling? There is a section in which we see the workshop notes on Stripmalling. It is all fictional, but holy, it is hilarious.

    (It’s best not to think back to those workshop days. I’m sure we’ve all written and received head scratching ‘advice’. I’m trying to think of one of my own to share, but I’m drawing a blank. It’s probably for the best.)

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