Saturday, March 19, 2016

Salad Days

I love reading about a writer's salad days...these reminiscences by 97-year-old Doris Grumbach are wonderful! Doris Grumbach came in to teach a workshop when I was getting my MFA at American University and she seemed (as I recall) mostly unimpressed, except for one remark that she spoke while handing back a story to another writer: "I enjoyed reading this." Oh, but I was terribly envious! Even now, I think this might be the rarest, most perfect compliment to receive as a writer.

Here’s a juicy tease:
The custom in the [Iowa Writers’] Workshop was to submit a short story to everyone in the class, note their criticisms and comments, and then resubmit the rewritten story later in the semester. I came away from those three sessions with a great respect for the collaborative way the Workshop operated, and with one favorite and perhaps apocryphal story. Paul Engle, the director of the Workshop, told me that Flannery O’Connor shyly submitted her first story and sat behind the class circle, taking down all the criticisms that were offered. When that story, “The Geranium,” was resubmitted, it was exactly in its original form. Not a word had been changed. It appears as the first story in her famous collection,The Complete Stories.

It's been a long time, but I remember loving Life in a Day, sort of a memoir/extended essay that she published in 1997, about aging and Maine and writing and a million other things:


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.