I hate prompts. I always feel as though my writing suffers if I have to contort myself around things like, "You walk into a bar and see a family of mice drinking Scotch. Go!" I never end up with anything I'm fond of or would like to salvage in my own work.
If I get stuck, I like to muse on the page, or do a couple of character/thought-experiment exercises that don't involve writing as much as thinking, or read/write fanfiction and work on the concepts around my block. Only rarely will the most generalist of prompts incite me to actual good writing. Thus, I faced the idea of a 'list poem' with cynicism. "Besides the obvious," I thought, "can this really say much?"
Now, a list poem isn't a prompt as much as it is a poetic form--or a flash fiction, if you like! The premise is simple: you take a list and imbue it with the power to tell the story, the essence of all creative writing. The goal, I think, is to make a narrative arc without being too cheap or giving it away too easily. For instance:
Mat's Shopping List
Mat's Shopping List
First, I'd like to thank Miguel and Kapra for putting on such a great residency, which concluded with a reading by Yolanda Nieves, a local Chicago poet with a phenomenal sense of voice and place. Yolanda urged us to ask ourselves why we wrote, to whom we were writing, and what words we didn't yet have the courage to say. She talked about Lorca's duende, the otherworldly impulse to make art that was part inspiration and part suffering.
There's a couple things about a one-week residency. First, because of the vagaries of residency programming, travel exhaustion, and "so you're in x area let's meet up" plans, I feel that a longer residency--for instance, a two-week--really lets you sink into a project or set of projects without giving up too much. It's hard for me to just hit the ground at maximum efficiency because I like to orient myself and my workspace. The second Two Urns residency put me in a B&B room that I'm familiar with, which helped a lot. But a one-week residency, unless you're more disciplined than I am, is more about the social, cultural, and personal benefits of new space than it is about pumping out a fully-formed project. In that sense I feel successful.
My goals for the residency, which I outlined in this post, were as follows:
I did way more research for submissions than I intended, and have a healthy list of 1/31 deadlines. I also have a decent list of opportunity deadlines and applications in mind. The 'future planning' side of me kicked in this week, and now I feel like I have a roadmap for 2016.
I met with a rescue cat, but I'll be writing separately about my worries and frustrations with that.
In terms of revising short works for publication, it depends. I had two goals in mind when I wrote that one down--first, to revise a short story that I wrote, and second, to revise the short works from prior days of residency. The former goal was not met, but the latter was. Still, I'm going to spend this week revising a ton of work and I'm feeling very positive about that.
I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't touch pen to paper for the drawing class, and that I didn't touch my website except to write blog posts; however, I did map out what the site would look like structurally, and I know that's going to be a long task.
In other news, the trip to Chicago indirectly helped me put my desktop computer together, so I'm writing this from a real screen and typing with a real mechanical keyboard. Now that it's all together, I plan to chart out revision goals for the week ahead of my list of Sunday's submission deadlines. Happy writing!
Although I've seen some literary magazines asking for short forms, hybrid forms, and innovative forms, I haven't yet seen a magazine asking for strictly flash CNF. I think there's a real interest in having such a publication, and I'd definitely want to publish in one!
For instance, it can be arduous to spend an entire book worth's of time with someone, especially if they aren't incredibly witty, profound, or famous. Flash is a great way to get out some of the memoir-istic anecdotes we have inside of us without alienating, explaining too much, or spiraling into dullness. Likewise, it's a good way to test a topic before committing to writing a longer piece.
I'm thinking about experimenting with this form in my own writing, and also about publishing a modest lit mag that would provide a home for the work, the way that Vine Leaves does for vignettes and various other places do for novellas, or novelettes, or formal poetry. We'll see if that ever happens, of course, but it seems like a good idea to distinguish a market through specialization since there are so many lit mags out there.