Jottings, Scribbles, Bits, Pieces, Idiosyncrasies


I’m ten days into the eleven-day January residency of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. By the time this posts, we’ll be just hours away from Graduation, but I can feel the “Low Battery” alarm about to go off. When I get home to Seattle, I’ll need about a week to get over not only jet lag but the intensity of lectures, readings, panel discussions and workshops, not to mention all the conversations over breakfast, lunch and dinner…and late into the night. My notebook is filled with jottings.

A writer’s notebook is nothing if not unique to the individual who fills it. What our minds pay attention to is so definitely our own, and almost inexplicable. I’ve tried in the past to define it as “where our attention comes to rest.” In workshop this time around, I’ve been calling it “idiosyncratic attention” which is close to what I mean, though the phrase sounds like a straightjacket on something that’s most attractive when out of control.

So I thought I would share some phrases which got jotted down in my own notebook over the last ten days. Ask anyone else here at the residency, and his or her notes would be completely different. For me, it’s a matter of scribbles, bits and pieces, ideas that suggest a poem or two, questions to nudge me in the direction of further exploration:

  • Not to produce action, but to produce a desire to act – social justice. To imbed what you care about into everything you do. The need to be agents of change. 
  • Dialogue – the illusion of conversation. Monologue – performance piece.
  • Narrative restraint. Slowing the information down. Reader and author collaborate. Wait. Provide beats.
  • Is the landscape ever neutral?
  • Gesture is the ultimate act of “Show, don’t tell.” Implied gestures.
  • “Shining forth.”
  • Loud yearning. Quiet yearning.
  • Verse novel – physiological component? Eye movement down page.
  • Ha-ho-ha-ho – impossible.
  • Incongruity theory. The violation of expectations. [possible poem?]
  • Ask yourself, “What am I mad about?”
  • The law of diametric opposites.
  • “Reality bridges.”
  • Flannery O’Connor: “To begin where human knowledge begins, with the senses.”
  • Kerouac: “First thought, best thought.” True?
  • Dante: Go through Hell to get to Heaven.
  • Conrad: “Into the destructive element submerge”
  • “Tagesreste” – Freud’s idea of “day residue” (dreams.)
  • Over-allegiance to order. [poem?]
  • The “decorative” antagonist. [poem?]
  • Mind anticipates narrative.
  • “Worthy” books – an “applecart in need of upsetting.”
  • Funny is just serious with a mask on. Humor both assigns and subverts identity.
  • Look for Save the Cat (screenwriting)
  • Look for Raymond Carver’s story, “One More Thing.

I love the people I teach with. It’s a giddy feeling

Busy getting dizzy.

Girl in a swirl.




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3 responses to “Jottings, Scribbles, Bits, Pieces, Idiosyncrasies

  1. Tom Birdseye

    Looks like someone’s been fishing, and is going home with an excellent catch.

  2. Uma Krishnaswami

    Loved the list of jottings. Can I say that I love lists? Maybe something about those skinny lines running down a page just fools me into thinking I’m organized. And this is one terrific list of ideas to chew on, question, wrangle with.

  3. timwynnejones

    Ah, girl in a swirl. How I missed the residency. I’ll look forward to getting dizzy in July.

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