Here’s my condensed notes from an old class by the inspiring and inspired Kim Stafford at the formerly wonderful, since eviscerated, but kinda coming back, Northwest Writing Institute.
Regarding prompts: “Savor the different directions taken from the same beginning.”
Also regarding prompts: “The most interesting writing is from invitations poorly understood.”
"…the vacuum surrounding certain fictional characters." Eg, Hopper paintings
"You have the right to pass, but you diminish everyone else’s experience by doing so."
The furthering of truth v the antistory, the denial of truth
The a-story, the b-story
The trigger, the actual, the first genius, the second genius.
At the final class session, I brought seedlings from my atlas cedar, the largest, most sprawling specimen I have ever seen, and which some people have aptly called the Mother Tree. Many writers took one home. Kim took one; years later, he told me it’s in solid ground and doing well.
My story from this class, “She Likes My Hair,” in which two daughters discuss their crazy-chef father long into the night, was published in Alimentum. They even paid me 250 bucks! Kim Stafford’s critical suggestion was to shift the point of view away from the two daughters, this being achieved by putting someone else in the room during their conversation. A roommate. But his radical suggestion, and the one that really explodes the story, was to call attention to the point of view only during the title. Miss the title, and you miss everything else. He suggested, “What I overheard when they thought I was sleeping.” The real story, then, is how to give the narrator a stake in the action, a capacity for change, a choice to be made, a problem to be solved. The title I settled on, “She Likes My Hair,” achieves that, but for reasons that would be obvious only to a reader of the story.