Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gold in Them There Notebooks, Part I

Over the last month or so – the time when I would have, in previous years, been prepping for and then attending the summer residency portion of my MFA program – I've been nostalgic. Missing the anticipation and nerves and frantic reading and critiquing leading up to the intense 11-day session, and longing for another chance at the mother lode of knowledge, camaraderie, motivation, and magic which made up each day.

This week, while in the middle of a massive
office reorganization project, I had the chance to unearth the notebooks I filled over the two years I spent in that program. There's one from each residency, and one from each semester in between. Residency notebooks are filled with notes from faculty seminars, peer workshops, visiting author talks, guest lectures, and graduating student presentations, as well as tidbits culled from conversations during lunch, carpool rides, and evening coffees. Semester notebooks include advice from my faculty mentors on my work-in-progress, and ideas for the annotations I needed to produce on a dozen books.

Opening those notebooks brings up many mixed emotions, but the overriding sense is one of finding treasure. Sure, I have already acted on much of the advice, incorporated many of the tips and techniques into my writing process, and clearly remember some of the best-phrased counsel. But I was amazed at how much I had either forgotten or filed away in a far part of my brain.

Rather than read through each notebook from beginning to end, I thought it might be more fun, over the next few weeks, to open them up in a completely unsystematic and arbitrary way, and see what I'd find. And, I'll blog about it.

First up -- from a seminar on vision and a possible approach to the prewriting process:

Get a huge sheet of paper or white board. I call it a Chaos Board. Write down all the key words about your subject. Have absolutely no order. Write words, prompts, ideas. Sketch in visual things too. Keep it uncensored. Use placeholders if you can't think of the exact idea. Make sets and subsets. Make word webs, by drawing connecting lines between words and phrases. Notice the high traffic areas. - Debra Marquart, author of The Horizontal World: Growing up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere

1 comment:

Dory Adams said...

I love this idea of sharing bits of what you find in your notebooks on your blog. I recently uncovered a box of my own notebooks from my MFA program which I'd stored away. I haven't opened the box yet, but I'm looking forward to looking at those notes.