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83

My Parade

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Related section: How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays - My Parade

Chee, A. (2014). My Parade. In ? (ed) MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pp. 83-106

96

My first workshop with her was a revelation. I’d put up my application story—most of us did at some point—with the idea that it was the best I had. She saw straight through it, the way it was a mix of the autobiographical (I really had been in a coven in high school, with my high school boyfriend) and the fantastical (I did not ever help the police find lost children with clairvoyant dreams). I had tried, crudely, to make something out of a Dungeons & Dragons group I’d been in back in high school, but I hadn’t done the work of inventing a narrator who was whole and independent of me. Deborah drew lines around what was invented, and what was not, with a delicate pencil, and patiently explained to me how what we invent, we control, and how what we don’t, we don’t—and that it shows. That what we borrow from life tends to be the most problematic, and that the problem stems from the way we’ve already invented so much of what we think we know about ourselves, without admitting it.

not totally sure what i should take away from this tbh

—p.96 by Alexander Chee 2 years, 5 months ago

My first workshop with her was a revelation. I’d put up my application story—most of us did at some point—with the idea that it was the best I had. She saw straight through it, the way it was a mix of the autobiographical (I really had been in a coven in high school, with my high school boyfriend) and the fantastical (I did not ever help the police find lost children with clairvoyant dreams). I had tried, crudely, to make something out of a Dungeons & Dragons group I’d been in back in high school, but I hadn’t done the work of inventing a narrator who was whole and independent of me. Deborah drew lines around what was invented, and what was not, with a delicate pencil, and patiently explained to me how what we invent, we control, and how what we don’t, we don’t—and that it shows. That what we borrow from life tends to be the most problematic, and that the problem stems from the way we’ve already invented so much of what we think we know about ourselves, without admitting it.

not totally sure what i should take away from this tbh

—p.96 by Alexander Chee 2 years, 5 months ago
97

[...] workshops: you meet people there you’d never meet otherwise, much less show your work to, and you listen to them talk about your story or your novel. These are not your ideal readers—they are the readers you happen to have. Listening to their critiques forces you past the limits of your imagination and also your sympathies, and in doing so takes you past the limits of what you can reach for in your work on your own. A fiction writer’s work is limited by his sense of reality, and workshop after workshop blows that open by injecting the fact of other people’s realities.

—p.97 by Alexander Chee 2 years, 5 months ago

[...] workshops: you meet people there you’d never meet otherwise, much less show your work to, and you listen to them talk about your story or your novel. These are not your ideal readers—they are the readers you happen to have. Listening to their critiques forces you past the limits of your imagination and also your sympathies, and in doing so takes you past the limits of what you can reach for in your work on your own. A fiction writer’s work is limited by his sense of reality, and workshop after workshop blows that open by injecting the fact of other people’s realities.

—p.97 by Alexander Chee 2 years, 5 months ago