Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

dirty secrets

"Creative non-fiction", I figured, would be the easiest hill to climb. My masters program lasts for two years, consisting of three workshops, two classes, one mentorship, and one thesis (heart attack), and I can't gorge myself on pure fiction the whole time. I'm not allowed to. So, I've got to whet something else, and I figured "CNF" was the best choice. It wouldn't leave a scar. My other options (playwriting or poetry) don't even really count as options: teenage me wrote one poem ever--perhaps, perhaps two--and if you read it, you'd know why*. So, CNF it was.

But what the hell is CNF? During the first class, our writer/leader/preacher gave us a rundown on the wide range of writing styles that qualify, but was quick to footnote that Sedarisisms don't count. (She went on to compare reading his books to watching a stand-up comedy routine; according to her, when you're finished with both, you've had a laugh but the experience isn't memorable or meaningful. She said this with a perfectly straight face, no Sedaris-style sarcasm evident, and my heart dropped.) So, it isn't humour. It also isn't editorial, journalistic, academic, or "too" creative. The great range of CNF shrank quickly. I realized that I was left with only too options: dry, or soaking wet. Either very social, or very personal. Deeply topical, or glorified blogging.

I'm not sure I can do either.

Blogging is one thing (anonymous to a degree), fiction is another (nobody really knows what's real and what's not), but committing intimate details of one's life to paper and then handing those papers out to other people (friends, writers) for them to workshop just feels a little too raw and bloody for me. "Leslie, your life has a pacing problem on page three." "Leslie, your life just wasn't believable enough at the end." "Leslie, your life didn't really grab me from the start." Moreover, what the hell am I supposed to write about that can sustain itself for fifteen lag-free pages? Boy problems, 'betes problems, sad things, happy bits? "Creative non-fiction" is so far proving itself to just be a pseudonym for "grade 7 diary".

I'll stick with fiction, thank you.

* I just found a word document on my computer called "high school writers craft poems variety". Although I don't remember writing them, or if they ever made it off the safety of my hard drive, these two aren't all that shitty. They're actually pretty neat (one even rhymes!) Maybe I'm being too hard on poetry--it might be a gentle giant, after all. Now let us never speak of this again.

Joseph Cornell and The Dirty Little Secret
Box of big nothing
We look inside and wonder
But only you know

The Best Of
Scenery passing in a blear
Closing in on the end, hope drawing near
Feet moving quicker than the beat
Faster farther, never chasing defeat
Breathe, check, turnover, check, going, flight--
Ground is tougher than might
The player's lost its needle but the album still spins
Pop! Hiss! Silence can't make will thin
Up again- legs meet motion, vinyl starts talking
A little bit warped but never, ever walking

Thursday, January 8, 2009

in the land of businessmen

For the past two months I've been spending many of my early, early mornings toiling away* behind the disinfected counter of a Starbucks located down-down-downtown. "Shilling coffee to stockbrokers", as my Grandpa calls it. Digging deep to make sure I have enough in my bank account to pay my rent, the cable bill, the internet bill, the remainder of my tuition, for groceries, for public transit, for cat food, for the occasional bottle of less-than-a-tenner wine. A veritable Chai Walla.

They pay me to smile. I've seriously burned my hands twice. At the very least, this work provides me with an endless list of easily employable endearments: "double short", "half sweet", "extra hot".

The other day, after a busy and stressful morning rush, I whispered a comment to one of my coworkers-- "they all look the same to me!"-- only to be met with a disapproving glare. "You can't say something like that out loud!" they responded. But, I mean, really: once you've seen one recession-rattled businessman with caffeine sweats wearing a wrinkled grey suit, you've seen them all.

* being yelled at.