May 3rd, 2007

writerly

Process

I have a date with 20 first graders for the next couple of weeks discussing process. Yesterday was my first gig and it went pretty well.

My sister self-publishes a book each year on E's annual trip to Nahant. It's primarily of interest to the family and we send it to the classroom when she's 'Star of the Week.' So I brought in the sister's very heavy and very learned books and contact sheets of all the photos she took for one of the 'Nahant' books and then 4x5's of the photos. Passed them all around. Showed a pie chart that only 1/4 of the photos made it into the book. That they were out of order, mixed up to create the story she wanted. That she doesn't know what the story will be, though there's usually a photo of our arrival. That she doesn't write any words until she has the photos picked. They've been learning about 'editing' though mostly copy-editing.

And I told them that each of us would pick different photos and tell a different story. I had pulled out one photo where E was sitting on a rock just like the statue of The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. My sister didn't use that photo. I told them that this was the photo that spoke to me and I would have written an entire story around it. Showed them photos of the real statue, told them about the HCA, original, version of the story. Told them my sister knows that statue and story just as well as I do, but didn't use the photo because it didn't fit her story as she wanted to tell it.

Next week it's show and tell with props for the inspiration for one of my own stories.

Frog Out
writerly

More on Process

The teacher went over 'connection' with the children as a result of The Little Mermaid photo. They have been told there are 3 kinds: personal, world and story. The question they are asked after their standardized tests on reading comprehension is "did it remind you of anything?" She asked which type of connection was going on in the photo for me. And I ended up answering that it was all three.

Which led to a realization. That I have all 3 in most of my work. That a personal connection is what makes a story individual, makes it my own. A world connection is what makes others relate to it...anyone familiar with the statue would have seen what I saw. And I usually have a story connection in my work. It's frequently buried, but it's there. The world connection can come in the form of significant detail, subject matter, emotions, characterization. It's whatever a reader will recognize. The personal connection is what it means to me. And a reader will bring their own personal connections to it, make personal connections that I never intended. As for story, that's something that comes out of my years of reading, an evocation. It can be blatant or subtle. It depends on the story. It doesn't make it less original. And a reader doesn't have to know the reference.

In fact, I've come to think it's better if I don't mention it openly. For example, I have a Pygmalion story that has given me fits over the years. And recently I came to the conclusion that I wanted to delete all overt references to the Pygmalion mythology. Because the story will stand without it. It's better with it, but the reader will have an 'aha' of their own if I don't hit them over the head with it. This idea settled in when the story was critiqued last summer at Worldcon and the other 'victims' had googled Pygmalion in order to understand what it was. sheesh.

So. I'm pondering this triple connection thingy.
Frog Out