Monday, November 17, 2008

Thanksgiving In the Garage

This semester Amanda is taking a creative non-fiction class. A few days ago, she asked me to look at one of her pieces. I asked her about what kind of feedback she'd like, so I had guidelines on how grammatical, blunt, etc. to be. Amanda said, "Be gentle."

This morning I read a story she wrote about her family and Thanksgiving. I made minimal marks and those marks were just lines beside things that stuck out to me, no actual words. Then we chatted about 'em. I went gently.

Biggest victory of the chat was adjusting her story telling structure and, my favorite, naming it. She had a title, but it didn't quite fit. When I asked her why she titled it that, she kinda shrugged and said she has a hard time with titles.

"Okay," I said. "When you think about this story, what's the biggest thing that sticks in your mind?"

"My aunt continuing to eat the stuffing, even though she kept complaining about it."

"But that's something that happened that day, not something you wrote on the page. On the page, what sticks out to you?"

"Me and my brother sitting in the garage."

"That's perfect!"

You see, the story starts off with Amanda having a conversation with her mom about why Amanda can't host Thanksgiving this year (because the only place there's room is in the garage). Then you go back a few years to Thanksgiving at Amanda's parents' and there's an argument going on over dinner. To escape, Amanda and her brother duck into the garage. It's beautifully parallel.

I feel like helping Amanda get a new title (a perfect title, if I do say so myself) is my biggest accomplishment for today. I just can't help wondering if that might be a bad sign.


Debbie said...

I don't know. Titles are so difficult for me, finding a perfect one seems like a great thing to accomplish in a day.

Oz, the Mad said...

Yeah, what Deb said. Being as how titles is so crazy tough I think perfection be something to be proud of.

I bet it ain't perfect.

Hee. I feel wicked.