Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Notes on Skidmore, Amy Hempel

The second, Wednesday, session with Amy Hempel started with the discussion of my story, "Fire on the Lake," that created a lot of confusion in the room about the voice of the narrator. I'm experimenting with different ways of narrating the voice of a couple, the first person plural, and it doesn't have to be confusing -- but in this story it was (and still is, since I've no chance to revise it since). Amy, for example, thought that the narrator of the story was the dead grandmother (of my brother and sister narrating team). Which actually sounds like a very good story, just not the one I was writing :)

Amy's reading suggestions that had to do with my story were:

Truman Capote, "Miriam."
Paula Fox, "News of the World"? I didn't catch the title right.
Kevin Brockmeier's story "The Year of Silence" from the Best American Short Stories of 2008 edited by Salman Rushdie, a book I even happen to own thanks to my friend Suzanne.
Mary Robison, "Why Did I Ever?"
Something by Scott Spencer, Ben Okri, Julia Slavin (the following week Mary Gaitskill photocopies a Julia Slavin story for us), Barry Hannah, John Barth.

And then more reading suggestions for a story that got workshopped next:

David Markson, "Wittgenstein's Mistress."
Padgett Powell, "The Interrogative Mood."
Xiaolu Guo, "A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers."

The next day, I had my 30 min conference with Amy and got more reading recommendations:

Joshua Ferris, "Then We Came to the End."
Marilyn Robinson, "Housekeeping."
Alice Munro, collections of interconnected short stories.
Elizabeth Strout, "Olive Kitteridge."

She also gave me a list of low-residency MFA programs to consider (I asked): Bennington (she teaches there), Warren Wilson (Jim Shepard has taught there, she said!), Antioch. Not a low-residency, but a local MA program, UC Davis (she said, Lynn Freed teaches there). She also recommended other conferences to check out: Breadloaf, Sewanee.


  1. Olga-- have you read "The Group?" by Mary McCarthy? I guess it's third person, but feels like a collective voice-- it's pretty amazing how she sustains that. And very, very entertaining, evocative of a particular demographic in a certain time and place. A great read.

  2. Evelyn, I haven't yet -- but I'm putting this on my reading list! Meanwhile, do you have a system, managing your reading lists? A way of prioritizing? Or just keeping track of titles?

  3. hey, I just read Olive K and it was great. although I wonder if I will like it as much in 5 years

  4. Why not (about Olive K)? Is it too gimmicky? Or too topical?
    I'm yet to make any progress with my reading lists. My reading habits are so opportunistic it seems..