Date of Award

Spring 1994

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Education

First Advisor

Ann Bertagnolli

Second Advisor

Kim DeLong

Third Advisor

Kay Satre

Abstract

I had no goals for this collection. In early meetings, I made statements like "I want to experiment with as many different approaches as possible," and "I want to examine the nature of storytelling," and all sorts of equally "big" ideas. In reality, I had no idea what to do--I had written only a tiny bit of fiction, and my only complete story had been about a man who is asked to arbitrate between good and evil and is saved only when he finds God in a spam sandwich. Needless to say, I was going to have to start from scratch. With two exceptions, that's what I did. Both "Going to the Sun" and "Sand People" evolved from scenes I wrote in fiction class a couple years ago. "Going to the Sun" got longer this year with more detail and an ending, while "Sand People" got shorter. Originally just a monologue about the glory of Star Wars, it's now probably my favorite piece in this collection. I feel like I own it—while every other piece has come from a collaborative process (an invaluable process, don't get me wrong), "Sand People" has remained completely my own. Besides, it's a quick read. The other three stories (even as I type this, I flinch at the fact that seven months of work generated only five stories) have various origins. "Priests" was the first to evolve, going through what seemed like a billion drafts, and possibly with the least effect I wanted it to be moving, which carried it at times into the melodramatic. "Deer" came all at once, late at night, when I had to turn something in to Dr. Bertagnolli the next morning. "Josh" was the final piece—it started out to be about two high school rivals who chop each other's digits off in shop class and eat them (gently titled "The Taste of Beef"). Somehow, I settled on two dysfunctional brothers with a thing for spiders. In each case, the process of writing the stories had its ups and downs. Bringing in a first draft was an up; putting it aside and revising it two months later was a down. The routine, with the exception of the two older stories, was this: I would bring in the first two pages of a story to Dr. Bertagnolli, who would then tell me what was working or not working in those first two pages. Then, in the next couple weeks or so, I would try to get a complete draft That would be followed by maybe one more draft then it would go to the whole committee (which included Kay Satre and Kim Delong). Fd listen to them all debate what each story meant and that feedback would lead to the final draft This description makes it sound organized, though; it really wasn't, or at least it never felt like it In addition to the gobs of fiction I planned to write (I originally anticipated a thesis at least twenty pages longer than this one), I also wanted to throw in a couple poems. Any quick scan of the "Contents" page, though, reveals that I wrote more poetry than fiction. To be honest I'm not positive how that happened. I never even set any ridiculous goals ("The nature of poetry," and so on) with the poetry—I had had so few poetry successes that even goals seemed like a stretch. With the poetry section, I really did have to start from scratch. The first poem to land on Dr. Bertagnolli's desk was titled "The Sand in Your Eyes," and was full of passages like this one: Let the sand in your eyes Grow black, and Your mouth cry, finally, That the vows you dream Leap from sight like the martyrs That drink From the jug By the bed. I have to confess that I still think it sounds great, though I still don't know what any of it means. I don't think any of the poems in this collection sound as fun or weird as the nonsense poems I was writing at the beginning of the fall. The trouble with those early poems, though (which Dr. Bertagnolli very gently pointed out), was that they made absolutely no sense. None. The poems that ended up in this collection, like the stories, evolved in various ways. "In the Dust" is, for all practical purposes, the first poem I ever wrote. I wrote the original during my senior year of high school, and it was twice as long. Everyone who read it this year took it upon themselves to cut out what they thought was "unnecessary," and what remained is found here. All the poems with a specific form (couplets, quatrains, and so on) evolved this spring in Dr. Ford's poetry class. I had never written in forms before (with the exception of haikus), and much to my surprise. I kind of enjoy it. Anyone who knows me at all and reads this collection will see that my own life is sprinkled all through it Creating a balance between fact and fiction consequently became a real "issue" in this thesis: How much of myself could I include, and still call it fiction? What if the actual events conflict with the kind of story 1 want to write? And is my life interesting enough to be the source of good stories? Well. I don't know how other people would respond to Well. I don't know how other people would respond to these questions, but I wrote with the following answers in mind: First, I could include as much of myself and my life as I wanted (after all. it is my intellectual property, and I might as well put it to use). Second, I always gave priority to the story-none of these stories or poems is an exact record of anything, and usually it's pretty far off. The "me" elements in these pieces vary in degree. "Priests," for example, is completely autobiographical up to a point, then the story kicks in. "Josh" contains hints of my relationship with my brother (yes, he did do the Chinese water torture), but, obviously, only to a certain extent "Deer" came from some real events, but with different characters. And "Sand People" only reflects my life insofar as Tm obsessed with Star Wars. The poems, on the other hand, are more directly about me (even "Waiting," unfortunately), and probably stick a little closer to the facts. The third question-well, that*s a tough one. Many of my early drafts this fall were about failed romantic relationships, and they were all quickly abandoned. Writing about romance, for me, is like writing about the theory of relativity: I know it exists, but I don't understand it But my childhood (assuming it's over) is, in my own mind, pretty interesting, and not that difficult for me to understand. Especially the gory parts.

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