Excavating Emotion with Stacia L. Brown.

One of the most consistent bits of positive feedback I receive about my blog is that it has the ability to make people feel. Not all writing connects with the reader’s emotions. Not all writing is meant to. But there is perhaps no greater frustration for the aspiring writer than to intend for readers to feel her work and to get the sense that she has not quite succeeded.

If that’s you — whether you’re writing creative nonfiction, fiction, an op-ed or even an academic essay (yes, academic papers can convey intense emotion) — I’d like to help you.

To convey the emotions of others, be they fictional or real, you must be in touch with your own. You must become a projector. Think of your feelings as light. You cannot build a lively world of moving images if you are unwilling to let a flash of wild rage; a burst of ecstatic joy, a confession of secret jealousy, a surrender to impregnable sorrow, a yielding to devastating, life-altering love and an equal acquiescence to devastating life-altering heartbreak flow through you.

If the words you need feel trapped under the rubble of denial or self-protection, and somehow, in spite of yourself, you want them on the page to be read by friends and strangers anyway, I can take through a series of exercises, readings and discussions that may help you unearth them.

This summer, I’d like to work one-on-one with writers from all levels of experience who are interested in exploring emotion on the written page. Each writer will work with me individually  to design four hour-long sessions over a four-week period. The dates and times will be scheduled according to each writer’s availability. Sessions will be conducted online via Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangout+, and the content of each client’s sessions will be tailored to his/her writerly needs.

If this is of interest to you, contact me here to initiate the process. Sessions will be booked on a first come, first serve basis.

A Meta-Workshop.

An aside: Writing fiction is like slipping into a home and taking things— hushes, aromas, and laughter, for instance. Unless you’re good at it—like, acrobatic cat burglar good—you never quite know how to get in and you never escape unnoticed. Your presence is a loud and clanging reminder that you’ve inserted yourself into a space where you don’t belong.

To write well is to avoid notice. But how? Do you start at the back door or the front? Should you try the basement window? These are not naive times; there will be no spare key under flowerpot or welcome mat. Your own your own. Find yourself some tools:—a hairpin, a credit card, a crowbar—and get to breaking and entering.

But once you’re in, however you manage it, you can’t discard your stealth. You’ll need it to capture the awkwardness at the dinner table, to pocket the longing in the teenager’s bedroom, to siphon the mother’s resentment-for later, literary use.

# # #

It always took Nine about five false starts before she found the right entryway for any of her stories. She was always tempted to start in the middle, a conjunction igniting her first sentence: “And then we were silent,” she’d type, or “But Bessie wasn’t ready.” This never worked. A novel wasn’t an episode of Lost, after all, and Nine had little patience for flashbacks. Beginning at the beginning seemed too obvious; she didn’t believe the hype about Occam’s razor. And starting at the end posed many problems similar to attempting an arc in medias res.

Mind you, Nine didn’t arrive at this kind of indecision—paralyzing indecision, the kind that renders you immobile as deadlines march doggedly on, as merciless as Gestapo—on her own. She’d gone into a great deal of student loan debt to learn this brand of self-doubt. She’d sat, for two years, in a series of crumbling Tudor cottages, taking courses led either by wizened codgers hard-pressed to find anyone’s work impressive anymore or by the young, hip, and newly published (their skin as intricately inked as atlases, their best advice: besot your work with casual sex and obscenity).

But now that Nine she was unconscious, she was also un-self-conscious. Without any of her customary hemming and hawing, she had found herself already in. Whole paragraphs materialized, unaided. Her clever turns of phrase (“The wind is a sieve,” indeed.) were ambling along on a blank mental slate reserved, it seemed, for precisely these kinds of health crises.

Nine could hardly stand it, prolific at last! Eloquent self-narrative was emerging with legendary swiftness. Just look at that: “tectonic shift!” Were she awake, she would’ve stricken through that phrase and written, “Inaccessible reference?” Not here. Here, in her coma, every phrase worked; though, irony of delicious ironies, here, in her coma, there was no one to read them.