Monday, July 28, 2008

Group therapy

Well, for the first time in ages, I'm part of a writing group. I'm pretty jazzed about it because we all write different types of stuff, so it will be interesting to see different voices and points of view.

I will always have a love for creative writing classes, though it would take a while for there to be a good reason for it.

When I was in my first creative writing class in the first semester of junior college, I was not exactly inspired by some of the feedback.

I wrote a story about, of all things, a guy going to his 20th high school reunion. Keep in mind that I had only graduated high school a few months prior; heck, I was still 17.

While much of the feedback was positive, the one that sticks out is someone who was in the class to write Literature, and anything that didn't have a deeper meaning was a waste of her time.

Which, I should add, is perfectly fine. Different strokes for different folks, right? However, you can be more diplomatic about your disdain for humor-based pieces.

"The part at the end with the phone call was funny, but the rest was crap unbelievable."

This, by the way, was criticism from someone in her early 30s directed at a 17-year-old. I shouldn't have let it bother me, but it soured me so much that for the remainder of the class, I just used stories I'd already written.

It wasn't until the next year that I took another writing class, this time with a different instructor. While not entirely enthusiastic about my writing--the thing that stuck out to her was that it appeared to be meticulously proofread--the class was inviting enough for me to actually want to share my writing.

At the end of the semester, we could, for extra credit, compile a list of 10 markets to which we could theoretically send our work and choose one to actually submit a piece to.

I just did it for the extra credit and promptly forgot about it. But August rolled around and I got a manila envelope in the mail. Inside was a magazine, a letter of congratulations, and a check for $10.

I fully expected to get the first of many rejection letters. Instead, I got published on my first submission. Score!

So I rested on my laurels until a creative writing class at CSU Stanislaus. The instructor and I didn't agree on very much, but I met a cute brunette in that class, so in the long run, it was time well-spent. I think so, anyway. My wife may disagree.

I was getting prolific again at that point, and it seemed like I was churning out almost as much stuff as I was in high school.

But one thing pissed me off, and as typically happens with people like me, I focused all my energies on something that didn't warrant the attention.

I had turned in the first draft of a story in which there's a mention of how one of the characters loves the breadsticks at a certain restaurant. I wrote that shortly after gorging myself on breadsticks at Olive Garden.

The corrected version of my draft came back from my teacher, and he had crossed out breadsticks and written "garlic bread?" I meant what I wrote, and left it as such in the final draft.

Sure enough, he "corrected" me again.

So in the next story, I included a page-long conversation between two characters about the difference between garlic bread and breadsticks.

In retrospect, I think I may have crossed the line a teensy bit with one character asking the other in exasperation, "How the hell can you have lived on this planet for this long without knowing what a friggin' breadstick is?"

The only comment from the instructor was "This is not amusing."