Read like a Writer | Write like a Reader June 1

In keeping with our method of picking a contemporary story to explore a given theme, the workshop June 1 focuses on ekphrasis.

In our last workshop, we explored writing a journey–real or imaginary, success or failure–as a way to drive a narrative and open up an alternative reality. We kept in mind the possibility that “we’re all Bozos on this bus,” a characterization attributed to Wavy Gravy, that most lovable of ’60’s clown activists. Tony Earley’s story “Backpack” opened up conversations about portals between the “real” worlds of a story and imagined worlds, how writers move through them, how we follow them, and how writers make that work.

In our June 1 session, we will employ the word ekphrasis to explore the use of one media to describe another. Think of the paintings in Moby Dick, how Melville devotes an entire chapter about painting the whale. Think of Dorian Gray, of Ali Smith, of all the books and films meant to illuminate the act of a painter painting, of Geoff Dyer satirizing the art scene in Geoff in Venice, of Michel Houellebecq’s novel about a painter painting painters who is also obsessed by a writer named Houellebecq, about all the films depicting writers’ blocks or painters’ insanities where an actual work is used to explore the characters.

In Nicole Krauss’ story “Seeing Ershadi,” a real film, the story of the film, as well as her own story, and the characters (including the filmmaker) are all interwoven. The film is A Taste of Cherries by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. The point of the film, considering its surprising and existential ending, may be that life is meant to be experienced, not interpreted. This may also be the point of Nicole Krauss’ story. The point of our workshop is to analyze how the writer uses the film to deepen and expand her story and to explore the more general theme of how description and metaphor illuminates our characters on the journey we set them on.

The files for June are here

Author Nicole Krauss

        0601_burl_krauss.pdf (Nicole Krauss’ story)
        0601_burl.examples.pdf (info and examples.)

There’s a lot to unpack.

There’s the film, the narrator telling the story of how the film affected her  journey during a certain period of her life, her relationship with an actress, how the movie affected her friend, her dying father, creation/destruction, the actor Ershadi, the director Kiarostami, Japan, dance, Israel, ballet, suicide, the Magic of Reality. There’s a lot going on in the story as well as the film. A podcast of Krauss reading is  here.

If you’re interested in fiction, come join this conversation on Saturday, June 1 at 10:30 am. RSVP “YES” here 

For questions and more info: retreats@burlingtonwritersworkshop.com.

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