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Unreliable narrator

Thursdays are a tough day for me.

I leave the house at 8 am straight up and don’t walk back into the house until around 8 pm. I have office hours for my students plus two classes on Thursday. One of those classes is my lovely Jane Austen class, where we totally nerd out in the most felicitous way possible about constancy and visual sublime theory and literary techniques like free indirect discourse  and I get to finally espouse my pet rogue theories, such as the theory that Persuasion is semi-autobiographical with a wish fulfillment ending (particularly telling with regards to the argument on whether men or women feel love attachments more earnestly) and on how Emma‘s Miss Bates is possibly Harriet Smith’s mother (because all Austen first born females are named after their mother, and at one point Mrs. Bates called Miss Bates “Hetty” which could certainly be a short form of Harriet and before you poo poo me, I would like to remind you that Austen is very intentional about her character names. This was no boating accident! (Yes, I just used a Jaws quote to talk about Austen. Quit your pearl clutching, you loved it)). This weekend, between my other obligations (because my car. UGH. My car is a 8000 lb paperweight), I need to write a twenty page paper on the female gaze as pertaining to Austen adaptations and posit that much of Austen is a formalized neo-female gaze and for which I’m reading an entire book about blushing in Victorian times because I am going to blow the roof off this mother! Well, in a very small circle of Janeites, the roof will be blown off and then neatly settled down and gossiped about while playing a robust game of quadrille.

The photo above is my view of the Jane Austen class, along with my folder/notebook selection for this particular class (which I accidentally matchy matchied to my tablet case).

The other class is my workshop — a three hour in-depth course with my advisor plus a bunch of MFA fiction and poetry students that runs from 4-7 pm (after which I can spend about 15 minutes walking to and getting my car out of the parking ramp and another 30-45 minutes driving home in Thursday evening traffic).

And tonight, I realized that even though Esteban outted my age last week, all along I’ve been displaying an age tell through one of my biggest pet peeves.

If you’ve ever participated in a writing workshop — the kind where everyone reads and annotates a printed out version of your short story or novel snippet — you have experienced the moment after the workshop critique is done and EVERYONE then slides or sometimes forcefully SHOOTS their copy across the table to you. Workshops of 14 people are conducted around very large tables, so this shooting requires some effort from the people furthest from you.

I really hate the entire process. Think of the visual — you’ve just laid bare your finely wrought fiction and had to soak in worry that they would hate it or that they wouldn’t get it or that they’ll think you’re a crappy writer for an entire week. You then had to sit there without saying anything or defending your work — because 99% of all writing workshops use the Iowa method, where everyone talks about the work being discussed without interruption from the writer — for twenty to thirty minutes. Then they bring you back into the discussion and you have just heard like 80 different things that your head is full and your hand is cramping from quietly taking notes and you generally just say “Thank you for your comments.” and then those pages that you worked so hard on, the annotations that you’re hoping will help you refine your next draft are then literally THROWN at you in some cases in this crazy minute of a white avalanche. The entire room sounds violent with pages fluttering, paper clips flying and people saying an embarrassed “Whoops” and “Sorry”.

It’s awful. It’s passive aggressive. It is unfriendly. I loathe that moment.

So, when we reach the point of the workshop when the author releases us to talk about the next piece, I always turn to the person on my left and take their copy, and then pass those two along. If the person to the left of that person still hasn’t shuffleboarded their packet at the author, I’ll ask for their copy too. I’m trying to set the example that we can do a nice, controlled passing. There’s no reason to hurtle 100 lb white bond at a fellow writer. Some of those packets are 50 pages! Multiply that by 13 people! Surely we can be adults.

Tonight at workshop, we finished with the story at hand and six different people very calmly and unprompted handed me their copies so that I could add them to my stack. Some of those people actually passed their paper AWAY from the author, basically the wrong direction, to add them to my stack.

But it was a very interesting observation in how things work like this. Slowly, I’ve been training them to act right by example — or so I thought. Instead what I actually taught them was “Hand it to Wendy, she’ll fix it.”

I’m the workshop den mother.

I did however, reward this behavior by mentioning that there was leftover cheese cubes, veggies, cookies and pita chips down in the writing program offices, and then lead a troop of fellow students downstairs to retrieve them, since I was the only one who had an access card for that part of the building.

Which… much to my chagrin… is exactly what a 40-something den mother would do.

I am my own worst enemy.

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3 Comments

  1. Jen wrote:

    Omg, you just went full-on balls-to-the-wall Jane Austen and I loved every word of it. ❤️

    Friday, December 1, 2017 at 4:34 am | Permalink
  2. Anne wrote:

    Long time reader, infrequent comment writer…
    You’ve probably got a car in mind, if not in hand, at this point. My recommendation may be late. However, my Kia Soul rides my 5’11” self, and 6’4″ hubby comfortably. Just a thought if you haven’t finished.

    Monday, December 4, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  3. WendyBix wrote:

    It’s actually one on our list to test drive this week! I’ve heard that it is surprisingly roomy and checked one out in the parking lot on campus the other day and it does seem to be spacious.

    Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

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