Friday Favorites from the MFA Residency

janav Creativity, Friday Favorites, Resources Leave a Comment

One of the great things about being involved with an MFA program is the kinds of conversations you get to have about writing, and all the books and resources people mention that they’ve found useful or inspiring. So today, I’m going to share with you some of the bits and pieces that have come up over the last week or so.

Bull – by David Elliott. A retelling of the myth of the Minotaur, in verse. With a very funky (and profane) Poseidon as narrator. He read from it and it was hilarious (of course – it’s by David!). Not out until Spring 2017, but it will be worth the wait.

Irreversible – by Chris Lynch. Out in September, this is a sequel to his book, Inexcusable, about a date rapist – told from his point of view. I often recommend the first book to show the power of characterization and the unreliable narrator, as well as to answer the question, how could someone do something like that and think it’s okay, and that he’s a good guy?

Take It From the Top podcast – Subtitled: Life Lessons from Creative Maestros to Awaken Your Artistic Soul. In-depth interviews of people at the top of their game in various creative disciplines. As it says on the page, think Inside the Actor’s Studio meets Terry Gross’ Fresh Air. I love hearing about people’s influences and what motivates them and what their goals are, and this is proof that even those who have attained great success keep striving and pushing forward in their work.

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise – by Anders Ericsson and Robert Poole. Explores a new way of learning that focuses on building skills toward expertise vs. relying on talent, and how to do that effectively. His examples are from sports and music and many other areas, but is also applicable to writers. Advice on setting goals, getting feedback, and motivation – everything this blog is about!

I had a great talk with Barbara Baig, author of Spellbinding Sentences: An Author’s Guide to Achieving Excellence and Captivating Readers, and How to Be a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills Through Practice and Play. The first book is about the nuts and bolts of putting sentences together in new ways that break you out of old patterns. Mind-opening if you’ve never really thought of sentences, and their parts, and how they come together effectively. The second is about writing as practice – deliberate practice, not just showing up and winging it and putting in the time and hoping you improve. Deliberate practice is the core of an MFA program, but we all need to learn to do it ourselves if we’re going to go from good to great. I’m going to write more about this later because it’s at the core of my philosophy as a coach as well.

There are many more conversations ongoing, but I’ll leave you with those for now. Let me know if you check any of them out, and if they resonate with you.

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