Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The National Undergraduate Literature Conference

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the National Undergraduate Literature Conference at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. At this conference, undergrads present fiction, poetry, non-fiction and literary criticism in panels that deal with the same genre or similar subjects. There are also guest authors that come to address the students and revel in the literary richness of it all.

Two of the authors that came to visit this year were Lawson Fusao Inada and Ana Menendez. I very much enjoyed their writing, but they also gave interesting insights to the writing process.

Inada encouraged us to carry a notebook or anything to write down thoughts and inspiration whenever they come. He actually suggested carrying around an extra register in your checkbook because it is much less bulky and more convenient. I've been told to do this by several writing professors of other writers, but I've never quite adopted it. In high school I carried around a fat little notebook in which to write emo poetry, but since I've come to college I haven't been so great at it. And I know that I have lost so many half-formed poems and ideas for stories or resolutions to struggles I was having with characters or plots in stories that I'm working on. Perhaps it was the simplicity of the checkbook suggestion. Perhaps it was Inada's amiable nature. Perhaps it was being around so many great minds and so much literature. Perhaps it was a number of things. But this time, I really felt a need to follow the advice.

There are clearly huge advantages to carrying around an observation notebook:
  • Being able to captures ideas on the spot
  • Being able to write down bits of conversation as you hear them
  • Writing lines of a poem as they form
  • Compiling ideas to use at a future time
Menendez gave advice that is somewhat new to me: write to the pain. I'm pretty sure that my creative writing teacher in high school may have said something to the same effect, but I questioned her sanity and probably didn't take her seriously. But Menendez suggested that where it is painful is where there is the most meat, so to speak, to write from. Whether it is emotional pain, as in writing about a personally painful experience, or mental pain, as in a concept you can't quite articulate or research that doesn't quite come to a conclusion, that is probably where all the gold in your writing will be mined from. I believe that writing to the pain is more satisfying in the end as well.

Pain is just another form of passion and we all know that passionate writing is better in every aspect than bored writing. For example, my social psychology textbook is probably the most entertaining textbook I've ever read, and I'm certain that is because the authors engage their emotions and personalities in the text. I practically feel like I'm on a first name basis with them.

I hope to improve my writing by implementing these two techniques I learned at the feet of two masters. Or at least two published authors (I did highly enjoy their writing).


Post a Comment