The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Great Fiction Resistance

By Tamara Lee

Recently, I took steps to amend a misjudgment I’d made while studying creative writing at university. In those days, I put a vast amount of energy into developing my skills as a poet, even though I felt more of an affinity with fiction. The reasons for resisting fiction were numerous, including a niggling worry I just didn’t have the stuff to be on the Fiction Writer team. Turns out, I didn’t have the stuff to be a Poet.

Beginning in February I’ll be taking a ‘Fiction Master Class’ with author Nancy Lee, at SFU’s Writing and Publishing Program. Lee, best known for the short story collection Dead Girls, also has a collection of poetry and a novel forthcoming.

The class is meant to be a ‘rigorous and intensive workshop…to elevate submitted work to a higher level of mastery, to cultivate fertile, creative impulses and skilled, precise editorial instincts, and to strengthen each writer’s authentic voice and individual process.’

So, a cakewalk, no?

I’m not sure what I’ll work on over the next 10 weeks, whether I’ll concentrate on a series of stories I’ve been half-heartedly trying to connect, or if I will finally dive into the novel re-write. Already I feel somewhat overwhelmed and willing to quietly sneak out the back. The thing that’s keeping me positive is that I was immediately accepted into the course and not wait-listed, presumably based on the strength of my submission samples. Or, it could be there was just something she liked about my last name.

Also contributing to the Great Fiction Resistance, is this rather lengthy-albeit-illuminating James Wood column in The Guardian. While I struggled with my fiction-writing skills over the years, I somehow had let myself believe one of my writing strengths could be a flair for character building. This Wood piece has set me right. I know nothing, though my angst is not unlike Muriel Spark’s, apparently, so that’s bound to ease a troubled writer’s mind, right?

Well, no.

Now I’m trying to convince myself that working on the short story collection will be fine, useful, perhaps enlightening. But really, it’s starting to feel like I could be making the same misjudgement I made at university. There would be no harm, indeed much to be learned, were I to push through with the short story manuscript, but I’m not entirely sure that’s where I see myself at this juncture in my so-called writing life. When and how do you know where to place your creative focus?

Obviously, it will all become clearer as the ‘Fiction Master Class’ progresses. And obviously, fiction is the real Master in this latest phase of The Resistance.

(Image credit: This example of 'Stooge-Jitsu' mastery, courtesy of McWild)


Blogger Anne C. said...

I can't wait to read that Guardian article you linked to. And looking forward to hearing lots about your Lee-lee class.

Mon Jan 28, 05:15:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Thanks, Anne. Feeling a little lackluster, creatively, today so that bit of a nudge is something I'm looking forward to.

Mon Jan 28, 07:30:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I'm so impressed with all you've been doing lately to express your creativity. Nancy Lee sounds like someone I should read. How can you get such glowing reviews and only be a "finalist" for an award?

Anyway, sounds like a wonderful class. Give us an update from time to time, okay?

Mon Jan 28, 09:09:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Yes, love to hear how this is going!

Tue Jan 29, 01:04:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T said...

Thanks, guys. I'll try to whittle down the info I'm likely to be bombarded with throughout the next few months.

Tue Jan 29, 02:43:00 pm GMT-5  

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