Four Writers

Last night, I parked on the wrong side of CU’s campus and was 15 minutes late to the 4×4 Reading. I missed Virginia Bellis. But I got to hear Sloan Fiffer, Alex Stein, and Laura Van Etten from CSU.

Sloan was introduced by Bhanu Kapil and some of what she read was writing she had worked on in class last semester. I appreciated seeing the growth of those pieces. Even though she introduced them as fragments, I could see how they were beginning to cohere.

Alex Stein shared some rather humorous and thoughtful pieces based on interviews and overheard conversation. The overheard conversations reminded me of the weekly exercises for Bobbie Louise Hawkins’ class. Each week we are to bring in pieces of overheard dialogue to share with the class. Bobbie says that listening and transcribing real-life dialogue improves our ability to write dialogue in our stories. It’s a great exercise. Now that I’m listening closer, I’m surprised that people say such wonderful things all the time.

The last reader was Laura Van Etten. She was introduced by her friend who mentioned that Van Etten had an essay published in The Sun Magazine in May 2005. She was holding a copy of that issue and I recognized the cover. I remember reading Van Etten’s essay, Safety Planning, about her experience working at a domestic violence shelter in New York. Van Etten read a powerful piece about domestic violence and addiction.

After the reading I approached her. She teaches at CSU, as well as being in the MFA program. I almost forgot that some schools actually have teaching assistantships.

I told her that I would be at CSU in November for the next 4×4. Laura asked what kind of stuff I write. I told her I write fiction with the some of the same themes that she writes about: domestic violence and addiction. I call it urban fiction ?.

I asked her about getting published in The Sun. That is my favorite magazine and top on my list of places to send stories. Of course, I know a lot of my stories don’t belong there, a lot of my writing is too gritty. But some stories would have a nice fit.

Van Etten said it took her six years to get published with them. But her first story got a hand written response and from that a relationship developed.

I find it comforting to hear from other writers about the length of time (usually expressed in years) it takes to have a publishing success. It is encouraging to know that hard work and dedication pay off.

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