George Saunders

George Saunders, one of the most famous and prevalent fiction writers of today, is a man who uses his past and experiences along with events happening in the present to influence his writing, and create short stories which have a certain feeling to them that is uniquely his.

My favorite story by him that I believe conveys this very well is from his most recent book, The Tenth of December, is titled Sticks. It would definitely be considered micro-fiction since it is only two pages long, although I chose this one in particular because I felt like it was so beautifully crafted and got so much across in such a short amount of time. I know, from working with this specific genre before, that it can be hard to really make a story meaningful, have good transitions, create a well-developed takeaway, and not lose the heart of the story all in two pages.  The story itself is told from two children’s point of view, technically in first person collective (we) looking at their father and his digression through his life. The entire piece revolves around their father who begins by every year decorating for different holidays and slowly begins hanging arbitrary things that prove to almost be a cry for help after the death of his wife.

One of the things I loved about this story, and that I believe to be uniquely George Saunders style was the syntax and the grammar in the piece. George Saunders always does such a good job of not only considering the content of a piece, but the craft as well. In this story in particular, the capitalization was key to show further depth of emotion. For example, words like “Death,” “Mom,” “LOVE,” and “FORGIVE” were all capitalized which I think gives them special meaning in the story, making them not only just nouns but very specific and important objects that, although, are universal ideas, still maintain individuality in the story.

I also noticed that the passing of time is also very well-done. I know that often times it can be very hard to use transitions and make the passing of time clear, but by utilizing the decoration of the “stick” Saunders gave very clear indication of shifts during the story. Because there was not really a definitive plot, it was easy for him to just jump around and really speed up and slow down when he wanted to.

Overall it was a beautiful story and, although short, gave insight into human nature and the cruelty of life, which George Saunders is often known for.

Lexey Wilson, Junior Editor-in-chief

Teri Grimm

Teri Grimm is a local writer, residing in Jacksonville, Florida, with her family. She received her BFA in poetry at the University of Omaha and her MFA at Vermont College. Grimm has two collections of poetry published as well as having her writing appear in other literary magazines, journals, and anthologies.

Personally, I was not all too acquainted with her writing before coming to Douglas Anderson and being introduced to her by the writing teachers. From the get go, the fact that she was a local writer made her more accessible to me because she was here in my town. She didn’t live in New York City or Chicago or in a remote cabin in the woods; she is where I am.

Out of the poems that I have read of hers, the one that has continued to stick with me is Magic Lantern. The progression of her images is so natural and the language is attainable. I don’t like to read poems where the language is so over my head that I don’t know what on earth is going on because it takes away any connection that I could have made with the work and the speaker of the poem itself. Grimm’s language allows for me delve into the poem itself.

Magic Lantern, specifically, poses philosophical ideas and questions of identity and the significance of life, but not in the way that is too overwhelming. The images themselves are grounded, so that the poem isn’t this abstract piece that I couldn’t grasp onto. Images like “he’d show glass slides of the Taj Mahal / or lovers kissing in a Venetian gondola. Familiar / scenes too and after flickering black and grey.” These are some of my favorite lines from this poem solely because I can see what the speaker is talking about. I can feel the awe of the Taj Mahal and I can feel the romance of the lovers kissing in a gondola. I am with the speaker.

How she ends this poem is what stayed with me the most. The poem is structured as a single longer stanza with long lines and then the ending line is on its own and is shorter than the rest. “But that was before I knew better.” Through the latter half of the poem, Grimm explores ideas of being this almost ethereal person and having this kind of light to her, so that “the world could see me better.” The language, again, is beautiful and captivating in itself, but the last line is what got me. It switches the speaker’s tone into something more reluctant and questioning of the world and themselves. Before the speaker is hopeful, maybe even a little jovial, but then the last line allows for the speaker to become someone more cautious and scared almost.

Grimm’s writing has allowed for myself to be okay with taking these turns that aren’t entirely expected because typically, I am careful with my writing, I am in my defined comfort zone. But with Grimm, she turns the poem, like all good poets, so that it isn’t what you expect.

Read Magic Lantern here: http://teriyoumansgrimm.com/poems.html

Winne Blay, Junior Managing Editor

Writer’s Fest: Guide to Making It

Tatiana Blog PictureEvery year, as hundreds of people flock to Douglas Anderson’s Writers’ Festival, writers and fans alike ask themselves the same question: How can I possibly see it all?

The answer, unfortunately, is simple — you can’t.

But part of the magic of these festivals is just that, and the pressure of choosing between two great workshops forces festival-goers to make the most out of what they’re allotted. At any given time, there will be four or more workshops covering a range of topics like developing intention, setting, humor, and more. With all the options available, it’s no surprise attendees new to the event’s structure are left at a loss for how to manage their time. What it comes down to really depends on what you’re there for. Often students flip through the pamphlet, find the workshops best tailored to what they struggle with in their own writing and go there. Getting that focused time to craft that skill is often one of the most valued elements of every good convention, and Writers’ Fest is no different.

But even the most prestigious, seasoned writers enjoy writing conferences like Writers’ Fest, the AWP, and Dodge Poetry Festival because they allow for exploration and communication between creators. These writers may no longer need to hear tips on forging plot but it’s the collaboration of each writer’s process, the proximity to other creative-thinkers that draws the most out of everyone that attends. I went to my first Writers’ Fest as an over-eager sophomore just beginning to grasp the basics of the craft, so I attended lectures work shopping style, plot, and characterization. Now, I’m a senior with a clearer grasp on those things, but now as I’m figuring out how my voice should sound from the page, I’ll be at the workshops that encourage exploration of theme and identity. Whatever your goal is, following these general rules will help you get the most out of your Writers’ Fest experience:

  • RESEARCH. I skipped this step as a sophomore, and as a result missed out on incredible workshops with Dorianne Laux and Patricia Smith, two of my favorite poets now. Learn from my mistakes. You can find a complete list of the authors on the DA Writers’ Fest website along with bios and samples of their work. Mark where you feel a connection.
  • REFLECT & DECIDE. Think about where you are in your journey as a writer (or reader). What lessons can you benefit the most from learning? Taking into account your immediate goals and desires, compile a list of techniques you find yourself stuck or struggling in.
  • COMPARE. If you’re lucky, the authors you were drawn to will have workshops that tie into what skills you want to develop (a list of author workshops is also on the DA website). If not, try to leverage your desires as a fan with your needs as a writer. Make a decision and stick to it.

OTHER TIPS BASED ON MY MISTAKES:

**Do not be afraid to attend a lecture alone! I missed the aforementioned Dorianne Laux workshops for a lecture my friend wanted to attend. I still had fun, but I walked away from it knowing I couldn’t apply what the workshop sought to teach. Similarly, if two lectures you and your friend want to attend are scheduled to happen at the same time, don’t hesitate to split ways, attend both, and compare notes later. Bottom line, working together can make or break your Writers’ Fest experience.

**Writers need to make a living, too! If you meet a writer you really connect with, don’t hesitate to buy their book. Douglas Anderson will have a small store featuring all the writers’ collected publication for sale. They’ll sign it!

**While I can’t speak for all our writers, most of their lectures will not involve sitting around a table helping you hammer out your third draft. Instead, bring a blank journal and pen and try something new. Take good notes!

**Don’t freak out if you can’t attend every workshop on your list. Plans change; workshops get moved around, etc. Just remember to breathe and know that you’ll probably get another chance to see/hear/learn from them soon. After all, it’s supposed to be fun!

-Tatiana Saleh, Community Editor