Last night's Bolton reading was really terrific. First we heard from several talented undergraduate writers who have participated in this semester's Workshops, and then poet and fiction writer Jim Daniels read his work to a very appreciative audience. Here are some photos from the event.
After the reading, some of us had dinner with Jim Daniels. Here are four of the talented workshop leaders—Christina Seymour, Rebecca Doverspike, Rebecca Thomas, and Connie Pan—with their leftover pizza:
Thanks to everyone for another year of terrific Bolton Workshops! See you next fall!
A few weeks ago as spring was dragging its feet and winter was overstaying its welcome, life felt a bit monstrous... I blame it on the seemingly ever-present swirling snow. Feeling a bit downcast and dejected, us Honors Hall Boltoneers decided to give in to our darker sides and create villains. Because all good villains have good backstories and even better outfits, we decided to have a villain mash-up. On a piece of paper, we each wrote down a certain identifying item about a villain and then switched-off. What is a quintessential part to your villain's outfit? Switch. What is his or her secret? Switch. What is his or her habit? Switch. Secret Pleasure? Switch. Pet Peeve? Switch. First and last name? Switch. From there, we drew our characters and wrote a short scene about them. The results were legendary:
A man loves cocktails and dancing and whale-bone corsets.
A woman with fabulously long fingernails and a fish-tank belt.
You get the picture.
But then we discussed why we love villains so. They speak to fears and insecurities we have. We get to live out darker impulses. Better yet, we discussed what makes a good villain, and we decided that the really good villains, the ones that stick with us, have wonderfully human habits (we looked at Wilkie Collins's Count Fosco..my personal all-time favorite villain). But they also are inexplicable. They scare us because we can't explain them away. And so, armed with our new sense of villain-wisdom, we wrote about our own. But taking Count Fosco's love for animals into account, we wrote a scene where our bully or villain is sympathetic, because good characters are complicated ones. The results were wonderful with everyone creating complicated backstory and paying attention to details and syntax. We realized that if we wanted to create really great villains, we had to give their time on the page as much attention and care as our protagonists, too.
Come join us on Sunday, April 14, for our Spring Semester Bolton reading at 4pm in the Honors Hall. Maybe a few of our villains will show up, too.
As the last wisps of fall Bolton workshops in the
Dadisman/Stalnaker hall fall over this crisp night, I will share some of the
work I’ve gathered from our writers over the semester. Just two hours ago, we
sat on RFL Debbi’s porch eating Al’s pizza, looking over Woodburn Hall to a
pink sunset on one of the warmest nights of the year. We wrote anything we
wanted with a few quotes from Basho, Chuck Klosterman, Jill Bialosky, and Chuck
Palahniuk guiding our way. What came out was a memory of a raccoon stealing
your backpack at age seven; a fast food drug deal; an ode to our fabulous RFL :);
an ode to awkwardness; and a tender poem for a suffering friend. Oh, and I
wrote about the sky, in typical MFA fashion.
Bob Ross says that the moneymaker of any seascape is that
little spot of yellow in the waves—the sun’s reflection on the ocean. That sky
tonight had an orange-sun moneymaker that stole the show—any other pink stripe
or deafeningly blue cloud was upstaged by that sun. We took moments to compose
ourselves looking at the quickly changing sky, and we were glad to share it,
until many of our RA participants had to shuffle off because a fire alarm went
off (don’t worry, there was no real fire).
Our writers are like that spot of sun, the showstoppers of
these long school days at WVU.
Enjoy these few highlights from this semester.
An excerpt of Shannon
Ballard’s poem that skillfully captures the suffering of a grieving woman:
“The pain is too great and I’m
not that strong”
The words spill from her
lips like the neverending
pour of the tears that burn
down her cheeks
laying splayed upon the
crumpled covers of the bed
surrounded by the crushing
darkness that has
become her friend. Her
breath puffs out a potent sigh
that makes her whole body
shudder as the pain
settles in her chest like a
down making each breath a
“The pain is too great and I’m
not that strong”
It echoes around the room
bouncing in her ears
reminding her of how much it
just how weak she is.
Karli Neff’s anti-ode to physics. Notice how her clipped
sentences express her annoyed tone-of-voice:
Oh Physics how I hate thee
It kills my brain
I can’t stand these days
I sit there for an hour
nothing makes sense
it’s all ridiculous
there is no logic
there is no reason
it’s a waste of my time
if it never existed life would be glorious
It’s a trap that pulls me in
like a spider wanting to attack
then everything shuts down
and I want to run away
escape it and call it quits.
Nick Sturniolo’s comparison of a hospital and a funeral home.
Notice his subtle humor and precision of image:
Hospitals are filled with sick, injured, dreary people, half
of whom are probably trying to get a prescription for their “back pain.” The
funeral home had three elderly gentlemen, smiling, even though I don’t know
them they were smiling. The lights in the hospital are white and very bright,
you have to stare at the floor to see. The rooms in the funeral home are filled
with soft incandescent light being emitted from shaded lamps and chandeliers.
Their furniture also resembles their light, soft colors, complex patterns and thick
fur rugs, while the hospital is filled with laminated floors and furniture made
out of plaster and metal.
There’s more where that came from. See you all at the Jim
Daniels/Bolton Writers reading this Sunday, April 14, at 4pm in the Honors Hall!
Well of course I mean our every-semester, end-of-semester Bolton reading... made extra special this time because our student readers will be joined by author Jim Daniels. Jim is a poet, short story writer, and screenwriter. He's also a terrific reader and a really nice guy.
We'll have some free (!) copies of Jim's books on hand, so join us on Sunday, April 14, at 4:00 p.m. in the Honors Hall.
Here's a poem by Jim, as a little preview:
I have this idea—imagine
a hawk sitting in the sun
in a bare December tree
and the woman jogging
past you on the city park trail
turning back to point at the hawk
so you won't miss it
and the hawk swooping low
over your head, raising hair
on your neck with the breath
of its long wings, and when she passes
you again, she asks did you see it?
and the sunlight catches her smile
and you stutter yeah—yeah— it flew right over me. Red-tail.
Trail gently hugging the hillside,
the hawk embracing its silence.
No one to tell about it—the hawk,
the woman, the air swirling inside
like pagan grace, burning water,
red-tailed regret. Blow into your hands
for luck. See, that's my idea.