Slash and Burn Workshop

The perfect time to begin the story would be when my character was interrupted the first time she was going to kill herself.  The idea sounds pretty melodramatic now but this turned out to be a very popular story and was the first one that I wrote in graduate school that was published.  The paragraph that I wrote as an exercise started with this character sitting in her car at the fairgrounds, thinking about her  husband which later became the father.

I did write the nineteen page story in two days, typing away on my notebook out on the deck, away from my kids and the TV.  The class blasted it away. 

Some of the people liked the character but they weren’t crazy about the idea that she’d already decided to commit suicide. They especially didn’t like my descriptive opening that I’d written in Sentence Power.  According to some of the more seasoned people in the workshop, everybody used metaphora etc. too much after they took that class. 

My instructor announced quite loudly that the story didn’t work for him.  I was more surprised than I can say because I was so proud of the fact that I’d actually written a story in two days.  There was some very good material in the story, although some people thought that there wasn’t enough motivation to commit suicide. In the version that they saw, I started with a dead husband and somewhere along the revision process, I did change her motivation to her abuse as a child so I guess I did take that comment! I also removed almost all of the flowery language at the beginning but I still kept the image I’d created of the fairgrounds.

When I submitted the story, I knew it needed revision; I still wanted them to applaud the effort that I’d made.  They didn’t.

Not until much later, did I realize that they hadn’t believed that I wrote the story that weekend.  Since I grew up where people normally do tell the truth, good old Iowa, I’ve never really adapted to this mid-Atlantic skepticism.  They also didn’t follow the rules that my Fiction Techniques teacher set forth for us, at least there were only a few of us in the class that made any effort to say something good about each person’s work.  We were out-numbered and couldn’t offset the negative effort put forth by the majority of the people in the workshop.  Over time, a large part of the class modified their behavior, but some people continued to slash and burn. I was thoroughly pissed off.


About marystojak

Mary Stojak has published numerous short stories, her latest will be published September 28th in Mystery Weekly.
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