"I am a Minnesotan by birth and a traveler in wild places by vocation and compulsion." -Paul Gruchow

Monday, January 30, 2012

Eng. 252: Awesome Videos on Writing

Need a writing pick-me-up? Check out these videos I used in today's 252 lecture. (And I just figured out how to embed video. Prepare for more videos on this blog, now that I know how to do it.)

We're not reading Colm Toibin yet (CHOI-bin is how I'm told his last name is pronounced), but we will later in the semester. And in here, he's got a great line about Mary Lavin and writing the least-likely story. And in the second video, about the difference between reading as a reader and reading as a writer (and listening, actually). Brilliant. And in the third, Junot Diaz has great advice about comfort zones, mapped territory, and writing something new.

But here's the fun part. These were part of my lecture on narration and dialogue--and I always think it's valuable to hear the writers we're reading, see them (almost in person), because we often forget that it's an actual person who wrote what we're reading.

So we finished watching the second clip of Colm Toibin (my students made me repeat his name a couple of times) and then I told them to write that conversation as if Toibin were a character. You don't have to get the lines and the dialogue right--just write the dialogue. Write his eyebrows, write his jowls, write the tone of his voice, write his inflections. One of the big goals of yesterday's discussion of dialogue was to get them beyond attributive verbs (hissed, was one brought up). Hopefully it works. We ran out of time to talk about John McGahern, but we'll combine him with Edna O'Brien tomorrow. Whee!


  1. I'm really loving your blog! I'm also a PhD student in CW (poetry, at the University of Utah), and I've spent nearly every summer at our cabin in Minnesota, quite near Itasca. Anyway, just had to comment when I saw the overlap in our interests. I almost went to UNL. Your classes sound great, and I'm making use of quite a few of your ideas in my own CW class, so thanks!

  2. Thank you!! And the world certainly is small, isn't it? Where is your cabin?

    I hope you'll let me know what ideas have been helpful, what works in your classes!