Tuesday, February 10, 2015

We’re in Mexico!

We made it as far as Léon late last night. We stayed in a little hotel near Silao Aeropuerto and, this morning, God willing and the creek don’t rise, a shuttle will pick us up for the hour and a half drive to beautiful San Miguel de Allende, with its cobblestone streets, colonial mansions, art galleries, and wonderful food.

One of the workshops I’m taking at the conference will be led by the prolific novelist Nicholas Delbanco. It’s called “The Sincerest Form” and, I assume, will be based on the method he describes in his book: THE SINCEREST FORM: WRITING FICTION BY IMITATION. 

Delbanco’s theory is that, as writers, we learn by studying the choices made – the “aesthetic strategy” – of the best authors. One way to understand these strategies is to try to copy them, much as art students copy Old Masters to advance their own technical skills. The point is to learn from our betters – not to adopt their voices in lieu of our own.

To that end, Delbanco selected twelve short stories, one each by Andrea Barrett, John Barth, Charles Baxter, Raymond Carter, Richard Ford, Ernest Hemingway, Bharati Mukherjee, Lorrie Moore, Flannery O’Connor, Tim O’Brien, Bernard Malamud and Jamaica Kincaid. For each, there is a statement from the author as to what he/she intended to accomplish, Delbanco’s analysis of the story and the techniques used in it, ways in which the author’s work connects to that of others, and THEN…. after each story, a series of ten exercises for the reader/writer to try. Working through the exercises is quite an experience and a lot of fun besides. To complete them all would take months, if not a year or more. I’ve been trying them, one or two at a time. They do get the juices flowing!

This book is a great tool for anyone teaching creative writing or leading writer’s workshops. Delbanco has used the method in teaching his own classes at Bennington College and in the MFA programs at Columbia and University of Michigan.

I’ll write more about the workshop while in San Miguel. If you studied under Professor Delbanco and encountered his “Writing Fiction by Imitation,” I’d love to hear what you thought of the experience. Please post a comment!

No comments:

Post a Comment