Kristan Hoffman - Writing Dreams Into Reality
Tue Jun 30 2009

Kenyon Review review (part 1)

Well hello again! I’m back from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and boy was it a doozy.

Before I go into that, let me take a moment to thank my AWESOME guest bloggers. Pseudo, Floreta, and Andy, your posts were insightful, enjoyable, and all-around fabulous. Thank you so much for sharing your unique voices and thoughts. Hopefully this won’t be the last time!

Also, welcome to all the new readers! I’m flattered that you’ve chosen to stick around. Please make yourselves at home, and chime in whenever you want. We’re friendly around these parts.

Now, let’s talk about the writers boot camp workshop. I’ve promised not to give away all their trade secrets, but it really was an amazing week, and I’d like to share a few of my experiences.

First, welcome to Gambier, Ohio:

Day 1 003

Um, yeah, that’s pretty much it. Like, the whole town. I mean, there are houses and stuff too, but this two-block square constitutes “downtown” Gambier. There’s a market, a bookstore, a couple restaurants, a post office, a clinic, and some campus administration buildings. There is NOT ONE SINGLE STREET LIGHT. When I first arrived and realized this was home for the next week, I wasn’t sure I’d make it. But by the end, I must confess: I was in love with little ole Gambier.

(The perfect weather didn’t hurt either. Even the one night it stormed was absolutely gorgeous, with dazzling lightning streaking the sky.)

This is Finn House, home base to the Kenyon Review:

Day 1 008

After signing in, I dropped my stuff in the dorm and then went out to “orient” myself. Which was oh-so-hard to do in a two-block town… Needless to say, I had a little time to kill before the welcome dinner. Somehow I ended up at the happy hour for teachers and their assistants. Awk-ward. But everyone was friendly, so it turned out just fine.

Day 1 012

At the welcome dinner, I decided to sit with students my age, and that pretty much determined the rest of my experience. Six of us bonded quickly, and in just a day or two we became known as “the posse.” Four of us were in the same class (Fiction for New Writers with Geeta Kothari — which ROCKED) and the other two were poets.

Here we are, hard at work in the bookstore after the first day of class.

Day 2 002

The daily routine was: class in the morning (3 hrs), lunch, “free time” (i.e., goof off and then SCRAMBLE TO WRITE time), optional movie sessions, dinner, readings, and more “free time” (i.e., OMIGOD IT’S MIDNIGHT ALREADY? I ONLY HAVE 100 WORDS time).

Here’s the hilarious and adorable Rebecca McClanahan (who taught the Creative Non-Fiction workshop) giving her reading.

Day 3 008

Gambier is a very dog-friendly place, so even though I was missing Riley something fierce, I had plenty of puppy love to divert my attention.

Day 4 007

As the days passed, I found myself producing better work, but more slowly. Socializing may or may not have played a role in that… *halo* I plan to post some of what I wrote at the KRWW over the next few weeks, except the piece I chose to read because I’d like to get it published. If you’d like to hear it, though, my friends taped my reading. (Warning: audio is a little hard to hear.)

Thursday was probably the peak of the week. After that, the lack of sleep (6 hrs, 3 hrs, 5 hrs…) started to get us, and our writing too. Still, every day was a blast. It was like summer camp, in the sense that you know your time is limited so you bond and divulge far more quickly than you ever would under normal circumstances. I of course got teased for being lame. Joe even said, “You have the least street cred of anyone I have ever met.” Doh.

(Although if that puts me in the company of Taylor Swift, then maybe it’s not so bad. Check out “Thug Story” if you haven’t already! It’s hilarious.)

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. On Saturday we said our goodbyes, but we also celebrated our new friendships with one last hurrah.

Day 8 001 Day 8 002 Day 8 003

As Zara said, “Things we are good at: writing. Things we suck at: jumping in unison.”

The posse, in order L to R: Adorable, General Druncle, Speedy, The Wildcard, Poet Laureate, and Grandma.

Day 8 005

(All pictures from the week can be found here in my Flickr set.)

Another workshop participant, Kirsten Ogden, posted her (more poetic) take on the week at the Kenyon Review blog. One of the quotes is mine — can you guess which? (Angie and Mengfei aren’t allowed to play ’cause they’ve read the story!)
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Comments
  1. Sonja says:
    Tue Jun 30 2009 at 11:06 AM

    I don’t know you well enough to guess which quote is yours. But I’m glad you had a good time, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it in Part 2. Although I’ve definitely titled a post with “part 1″ and then never got around to writing part 2. But I’m sure you’re a better person than I am. :)

    • Sonja’s recent blog post: Fairies are not princesses (Required reading for attendance of Quinn’s birthday party)

  2. Aisha says:
    Tue Jun 30 2009 at 12:45 PM

    Aw it looks like you had fun :)

  3. Kristan says:
    Tue Jun 30 2009 at 2:42 PM

    Part 2 will be a bit more about the writing/learning.

    And omg I had a blast. I just about died after that 3-hr night, but otherwise it was awesome. :)

  4. Lauren says:
    Tue Jun 30 2009 at 4:59 PM

    That is a lot like our residency structure. We have breakfast, about an hr and half lecture,lunch, 3 hrs in workshop class, another hr and half lecture, a dinner break to do with as we please, an hr or so reading and then we are technically done for the day around 9 or 9:30 but then we’d usually do informal readings which lasted till who knows when. I was getting maybe 5 hrs a night. The only real difference is usually there are not a ton of people your own age to group up with which is fine by me some of my best friends in the program are old enough to be my parents.

    That’s a good taste of what you’d get in an MFA Low Rez program should you ever decide to do that. Glad you had fun.

    • Lauren’s recent blog post: But Before I Go

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