Friday, June 1, 2012

Still Life with Insects – Brian Kiteley




“…they are simply finger exercises, writing without knowing that it is writing.” – Brian Kiteley from his contributors’ notes – The Best American Short Stories 1988.

I believe that I may have mentioned that little nudges from the universe appear when I need them the most.  Of course, they may be happening all the time without me picking up on them…but then they wouldn’t be nudges…you know the whole tree in the forest thing.

What I’m getting at, is that this story – rather, this author came along at a time when I needed to read him – as have other stories and authors during this project.  

Kiteley is presently a Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Denver.  It appears that he has 3 longer works of Fiction and two of Non-Fiction and is included in Lit. mags and  anthologies.
His non-fiction focuses on writing exercises and he has been gracious enough to include some of those on his website.

I have written all of the above through clenched teeth knowing that there is a decent chance that Kiteley has a google alert on his name that will direct him here – and that’s fine I suppose.

I dig what this guy has to say on his website- Kiteley reproduces the introduction to his book “The 3 A.M. Epiphany” – and in it, he mentions Gass and his method for writing fiction also offering Madison Smartt Bell’s feeling on the writing workshop.

I’ve been reading and listening to selections on Gass recently and am slowly moving through The Art of Fiction by Gardner, (Kiteley gives a nod to this book too)  and now to find this resource by Kiteley…it all seems to be lining up.

Lining up towards what?   

Well, we’ll just have to see won’t we? 

I plan on experimenting with some of Kiteley’s exercises.  He said everything that I wanted to hear –and with his appearance at this time in my life, I think I need to take the hint.

And now for some reflection.

In the contributors notes in the back of BASS 1988 Kiteley said this about the development of his story:

“I was moving from Seattle to New York in 1982 with a rest stop at my grandparents’ in Montreal.  My grandfather had a lifelong hobby of collecting beetles, and his locality notebook lay on the workbench by the bed I tried to sleep on my first night back on the East Coast.  I stole four entries from this locality notebook, writing them down in my own journal.  They described where he caught batches of beetles and when with the barest of relevant background information.  Nine months later, in a girlfriend’s depressing Murray Hill kitchen (bathtub at my elbow), I saw these entries and decided to do an exercise with them.”

And this takes me back to what I consider my first exercise in creative writing.  My memory isn’t allowing me to hold a firm date on the incident but for some reason I believe that it occurred in the 2nd grade. 

The 2nd grade seems almost impossible to me because I can’t image that I would even be able to write after only learning to read in the 1st grade.  Perhaps it was the 4th grade. 

Our teacher gave us a magazine and told us to cut a picture from that magazine, glue it to an index card and write a few short sentences, developing those sentences into a story.  I picked out a picture of a small UFO toy and glued it to the bottom left corner of the index card and wrote my few sentences. 

Evidently, I did something right because I earned some praises from my teacher and mother( mom’s approval is always important).

And I think of this exercise often.

So, I need to do more of this - more often. 

Now.

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