Faye Rapoport DesPres

Writing

On Reading “This Boy’s Life” by Tobias Wolff

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I’m currently listening to an audiobook of This Boy’s Life, the well-known memoir by Tobias Wolff. I enjoy listening to audiobooks, and this one has kept me company during morning runs and short car rides. But I have wished, more than once, that I could see the words that I am hearing in this book — that I could read the sentences over and over and really appreciate the incredible craft of this writer. Show vs. tell? Move seamlessly from scene to reflection? Use interesting verbs? Find a creative, new way to say something ordinary? Set the scene? Find the universal in the individual experience? It all seems effortless in this book. It all seems, even, beside the point. Amazing.

Here’s a delectable taste (found online — I had to find these paragraphs!):

“We sat gazing out across the water. The river was swollen with runoff. More brown than green, it chuckled and hissed along the bank. Farther from shore it seethed among mossy boulders and the snarled roots of trees caught between them. From under the changing surface sounds of the river came a deep steady sigh that never changed, and grew louder as you listened to it until it was the only sound you heard. Birds skimmed the water. New leaves glinted on the aspens along the bank.

It was spring. We were both caught in it for a moment, forgetful of our separate designs. We were with each other the way kindred animals are with each other. Then we stirred, and remembered ourselves. Father Karl delivered some final admonition, and I said I would do better, and we walked back to the store.”

Sigh. I write like that in my dreams.…

A link to my guest post on the Superstition Review Blog

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“California, a prophet on the burning shore,
California, I’ll be knocking on the golden door”
- John Perry Barlow

I always think of the Grateful Dead song “Estimated Prophet” when I travel to California. As a matter of fact, when I woke up in Benicia, a town located about 40 minutes from San Francisco, on Saturday morning, I opened up my iPad case, found the song on YouTube, and played it for a few minutes. I do love this state, as different as it is visually and culturally from the Northeast and the Southwest (the two areas where I’ve lived in the United States). I’m here now visiting family. My elderly parents wanted to see my sister, her husband, and their two children, and it was too much travel for them to handle on their own.

It wasn’t an easy trip. Thirteen hours, including a flight from Albany, NY to Atlanta, a layover, and then the flight to San Francisco. But my husband came along and he and I are here now, on our own in a small but new and comfortable hotel. Yesterday we enjoyed perfect sunny weather with a light ocean breeze as we watched my niece perform in a high school marching band competition in Vallejo, walked to the marina and up and down the main street of Benicia, which is lined with quirky shops and fun restaurants, and sat around my sister’s large dining room table sharing a feast of Indian take-out with the family at dinner time. At night, Jean-Paul and I joined my sister and her husband for a night out at a local bar/night club. As we walked in and made our way through the small crowd toward the bar, the band on the corner stage was singing Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”

California.

This post won’t be much longer than that, because it’s not easy to type on an iPad! But I did want to share the link to a recent guest post I wrote for Superstition Review’s popular blog. The blog, which is worth bookmarking, offers news from the journal, general literary commentary, and writing tips and advice. I wrote my post 10 days after the bombings at the Boston Marathon and talked about the incidents in life that we can’t shake and how they often eventually translate, for essayists, into writing.

Here’s the link:

http://superstitionreview.asu.edu/blog/2013/05/09/guest-blog-post-faye-rapoport-despres-what-does-this-have-to-do-with-writing/

And now, back to California. …

The blog is back — and so is the writing

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As I mentioned in a quick post the other day, my blog was out of commission for a couple of weeks — sorry about that, readers! One day I logged in to write a new post and got a strange error message noting that there was a mistake in a random line of code. Not being a coder (I can only code the most basic HTML) I had no idea what the message meant. So I emailed my trusted Webmaster, Justin Sablich. This made me feel kind of ridiculous, because since I met Justin several years ago and he built my website and blog for me, he’s become a bit of a “big shot.” Now a multi- media sports journalist and designer who writes and produces news stories for The New York Times, he was even sent to London to cover the Olympics. But because he’s also a kind and generous human being, he got to work on my blog the first moment he could and within days had it up and running again.

I know people recommend web designers all the time, but I honestly can’t say enough positive words about Justin. I believe he still pursues his web design business in addition to his work at the Times, and he has never been anything but wonderful, generous, and helpful to me — all at a very reasonable price. So if you’re looking for web design services, do contact Justin (and tell him Faye sent you!).

I feel as if I’ve missed so much time with the blog — I wanted to write something about my experience at AWP in early March, and I’ve had thoughts since then about some of the writing I’ve been doing, as well as publications news from other writers. I have also been going through the process of having my agent, Joan Schweighardt of GreyCore Literary Services send my essay collection/memoir manuscript to a number of presses. It’s been an interesting experience to “shop” my first book-length manuscript, but I’ve been hesitant to say too much about the process here. You never want to second-guess what might or might not happen, or to jinx any possibilities (even while all of your toes and fingers are crossed). I’ll just say this — it’s been an illuminating experience in many ways, and it has helped me to understand the publishing world better and to think carefully about where to focus my writing as I move forward. If and when there’s news about the manuscript that’s worthy of sharing, you can be sure I’ll share it here. I can say this — with everything the manuscript has been through so far, I’m gaining more pride in the accomplishment of working on and finishing that book, no matter what happens.

But as one friend familiar with the publishing scene told me, the most important thing to do while a project is out there is to move on and keep writing. So that’s what I’m trying to focus on now. I’ve working on a variety of things — getting back to my writing desk first thing every morning, tinkering with both old and new personal essays (which I think I’ll always do) and planning on trying some fiction. I even have a children’s book in mind that I’d like to write. There’s so much out there to try and explore, and I’m going to cast around for what feels right for my next project.

Wish me hard work and good luck. I wish it right back at you.…

The Solstice MFA Program at AWP

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Below is a news release from the Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing (my alma mater). The release outlines events at the AWP Conference (next week in Boston) that feature the program and various faculty members.

I’ll be at the Solstice table at lunchtime on Thursday. If you’ll be at AWP, stop by and say hello!

SOLSTICE MFA PROGRAM EVENTS AT AWP BOSTON

The Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College is a proud sponsor of the 2013 Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference, to be held March 6-9, 2013 at the Hynes Convention Center & Sheraton Boston Hotel in Boston, MA. The Solstice MFA Program book fair table, #G1, will be located on the Plaza Level; stop by for a visit!

Conference highlights include:

Creative Collaboration: The Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program & Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices–join MFA faculty, staff, graduates and students and Solstice literary magazine editorial staff for a cocktail reception Friday, March 8 from 7-8:15 p.m. in room 301, Hynes Convention Center. (The gathering will feature short readings by MFA Writer-in-Residence/Solstice Fiction Editor Helen Elaine Lee; faculty member and contributing writer Robert Lopez; & graduate Emily Van Duyne, runner up for the 2011 Stephen Dunn Prize for Poetry.)

Faculty member Kathleen Aguero organized and will introduce the AWP Women’s Caucus Reading, Wednesday, March 6 at 7 p.m. at the Harvard Bookstore, 1256 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge.

Program Director Meg Kearney will read as part of “A Reading by Contributors to Sudden Flash Youth,” Thursday, March 7 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. in Room 203, Hynes Convention Center.

Faculty member Robert Lopez will co-host an event featuring fellow writers (including Pam Houston and Matthew Vollmer) on Thursday, March 7 at 8 p.m. at The Bell in Hand Tavern, 45 Union Street, Boston.

Faculty member Dzvinia Orlowsky will be signing copies of her new poetry collection, Silvertone, Friday, March 8 from 11:00 to 12:00 p.m. at the Carnegie Mellon University Press Bookfair Table.

Meg Kearney will present as part of “It Could Always Be Verse: Books in Verse for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers,” Friday, March 8 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. in Room 107, Hynes Convention Center.

Faculty member Iain Haley Pollock will read as part of “Cave Canem Prize Winners, Then and Now,” Friday, March 8 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. in the Hynes Convention Center Ballroom, Level 3.

Writer-in-residence Terrance Hayes will be reading with fellow poets Kwame Dawes and Jorie Graham as part of “Language at the Breaking Point,” Friday, March 8 from 8:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. in the Hynes Convention Center Ballroom, Level 3.

Faculty member Anne-Marie Oomen will introduce Richard Todd, moderator of the Solstice MFA Program Sponsored Event: “Tracy Kidder & Adrian Nicole LeBlanc: A Reading & Conversation,” Saturday, March 9 from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. in the Hynes Convention Center Ballroom, Level 3.

ABOUT PINE MANOR COLLEGE
As an undergraduate institution consistently ranked among the most diverse in the country, Pine Manor College emphasizes an inclusive, community-building approach to liberal arts education. The Solstice MFA in Creative Writing reflects the College’s overall mission by creating a supportive, welcoming environment in which writers of all backgrounds are encouraged to take creative risks. We strive to instill in our students an appreciation for the value of community-building and community service, and see engagement with the literary arts not only as a means to personal fulfillment but also as an instrument for real cultural change.…