Second Helpings: One Story Summer Writer’s Workshop, Day Two

After resting up from day one, the spirited writers of our Summer Workshop jumped into their second action-packed day with gusto. In the morning, the twenty students divided into groups of ten as they did the day before for their daily workshop with One Story editors Marie-Helene Bertino and Will Allison.

Early in the afternoon, award-winning author of Bee Season Myla Goldberg delivered a craft lecture about the relationship between acting and writing. Using Maile Meloy’s short story “Paint” as a springboard for discussion, Myla covered many topics about creating believable characters (ask yourself: what they would do on a Saturday morning? What flavor of ice cream would they prefer?) and helpful tips about what makes dialogue and action most realistic (she suggested having a private space for those moments when you want to act out facial expressions or read aloud for that one character that has a sarcastic drawl). Yet the core of her lecture focused primarily on the importance of imagination to make a character three-dimensional. “If you do a good acting job,” Myla said, “you can be anyone you want to be. There are no limitations.” She encouraged writers to step out of their comfort zones, and try writing characters that differ in age and gender. “It’s all about stretching your brain and the amazing power of empathy.”

After a break to either power-nap at the hotel, grab a bite at a Park Slope café or read through workshop pieces, the group gathered once again for the evening panel. Managing editor Tanya Rey moderated an informative discussion about the elusive yet alluring MFA degree with representatives from NYU, Brooklyn College, Vermont College and Sarah Lawrence College. Each representative went through the basics of his or her MFA program, including the application process, selection of students, pros and cons of the degree as well as the overarching question: what will an MFA degree do for me? The panelists were honest and straightforward: “There is no real professional reason [to get an MFA],” said Brooklyn College Program Director Joshua Henkin. “You are setting aside two years to focus intently on your writing. The degree is the experience.” Each representative also encouraged writers not to get discouraged if they don’t get into their desired program the first time around.  Zachary Sussman, from NYU, also recommended that undergraduates wait a few years before applying, as the Master’s programs are intense and very different from an undergraduate degree. “When you’re older, you’ll have more perspective on how to best use your time,” he said. “Just because you get in, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should go then.”

Tune in tomorrow for more updates from the trenches and in the meantime, be sure to check out the new issue of One Story, Elissa Schappell’s “The Joy of Cooking”!

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