Saturday, October 10, 2009

I've been lacking...

By Casey Tolfree

So I know I've been lacking on the posting about my program but I guess that's because I've been spending so much of my time reading. The writing is coming. I'm workshopping a complete piece in need of revising so I'm writing there but I am finding that more and more I turn back to my novel. Even if I only have 10 minutes. I'm forcing myself to find time to write: if I finish the chapter than I can write. It's like a prize.

This past week was difficult. My fiction workshop gave me critiques and advice that I needed the other week. My newest revision of APT 509 is awesomeness. This week I had my first playwriting workshop. It was different for starters.

In fiction when our piece is being workshopped - we don't talk. We sit and listen and take notes. We apply what is said as we chose. In playwriting I was expected to talk, I was expected to answer question that I honestly didn't have answers too. It was a harsh workshop. I felt badly afterwards. I'm not a playwright and this assignment in particular was based on a hero's journey. I had a hard time writing it to begin with. It was a hard week.

I've since talked to my professor though and he was encouraging, explaining to me what was meant by comments he said and how I could work on my piece. It made a lot more sense when not in the spotlight of 15 people.

Another disheartening comment was made on Thursday but this time by a classmate. We were talking about "Something that Needs Nothing" by Miranda July. We were talking about just how Pip and the protagonist feel about the real world and working. One of my classmates actually said something that was really discouraging. About how certain jobs are undistinguished - ie food service, retail, etc. Wow. Hello, I'm a Starbucks barista. I don't think that working at Starbucks is undistinguished. If we weren't there how would you get a latte? How would we buy groceries without people working at supermarkets?
Bottom line is that in an economy like ours today, people who were top executives are now getting laid off and coming to work for retail stores to make money to support themselves and families. They are doing what they need to do to keep food on the table. I am doing what I need to do to pay my bills. I just hate when people say things like that as if it's so easy to just find something in our field or in the "real" work force. It's not easy. If it was easy I wouldn't be working part-time at newspaper covering high school sports.

Sigh, people worry me.


  1. Probably the most frustrating thing about academia is that it often forgets there's a real world out there -- even if it prides itself on studying that real world. The best professors I've ever had have spent time as baristas or construction workers or any of the other jobs dubbed undistinguished.


  2. Don't take that comment from your classmate too seriously. I'd venture to guess that the vast majority of people in MFA programs have at one point worked in retail, food service, or another "undistinguished" industry, and I know plenty of people who've gone back into those industries post-MFA, either by choice or necessity. So, don't let it bother you!

    I'm glad to hear your fiction workshop is going well, although your comment about the playwriting workshop scares me a bit - I'm taking an CNF workshop in the spring and am not sure how different it will be from the workshop experiences I'm used to in poetry. I guess workshopping outside our chosen genres can only be good for us, but it is definitely scary too.

    Hang in there!

  3. argh! i hate when people down play other jobs too :(

    once during one of my residency weeks (i was low res) i experienced three totally different workshop leader techniques and i'm still not sure which worked best

    1 - was the typical don't talk
    2 - was you could respond to direct questions
    3 - was open discussion with the workshop leader asking you direct questions about the work after first having everyone say what they were drawn to most in the work instead of the negative.

    still not sure how i would approach a workshop of my own...

  4. Ignore any and all elitist comments at all costs. That's all.

  5. I agree with Monica.

    So was the hero's journey play you had workshopped the same one you posted on your blog? If you revise it or continue it, definitely let me know because I need closure lol.

  6. I didn't post the hero's journey yet. I want to revise it first.

  7. oh ok. I thought it was the one where the girl finds out her mom is cheating on her dad. That's kind of a cliff-hanger situation for me right now lol


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