Hi 7th hour!
Today at Writers Week, we saw Nickolas Butler. Looking back on his presentation, think of at least TWO things he said that really stuck out to you or that really got your attention. What are those two things and why do you think you remember them the most? ALSO, how can you apply these ideas to your own writing? Give examples to clearly illustrate what you mean here.
Again, read what people ahead of you have already written about and see if you can come up with something new. Obviously, the part about applying this to your own writing should be uniquely suited to you and your writing!
Butler's piece Rainwater had a great impact on me. The piece started off somewhat typical and evolved into one with complicated emotion and powerful tugging at my memories with my own grandparents. What IF my parents left me at my grandparents' house and never came back? What if today was the last day I saw my parents? What if tomorrow, my life under my parents is gone forever? The piece was especially powerful at pulling at my own emotions and memories, and was expertly tied intimately to every member of the audience, calling forward faces of grandparents and the sinking feeling of being alone. The actual short story was simply written and retained a light, airy feel throughout, but the darker elements under it made it all the better to listen to. This two-toned writing was intensely interesting and applying this to my own pieces would exponentially improve my writing!
The second point is unrelated to his writing, but I thought his background compared to his position now was shocking. He described himself as a minimum-wage earning liquor store worker, struggling through monthly payments to keep a house that was half-decent to begin with, his wife being unemployed essentially because of the situation he was in. I thought it was so amazing that he was able to build this empire of himself, to become an international bestseller and selling the rights for a movie adaptation of his book! The contrast between his two lives is so extraordinary and it inspires me that I can become whatever I want, even if at times I feel down. No matter what life throws at you, if you believe in yourself, you can overcome!
1. A mechanical rather than creative aspect of writing that Nickolas Butler touched on was sentence structure. During his years in graduate school, he had a professor that always told him his sentences were too long, so he wrote a short story using very short sentences. Through sharing this, he made me think about my own patterns of writing, and I think that sometimes I write unnecessarily long sentences as well. I think that if I also took this professor's advice and cut down my sentence lengths, adding variety to my writing, it could turn out much better and be more interesting for someone to read. Even if Nickolas Butler did not intend for me to think about my own writing, I am glad that he shared this story with us because I learned a lesson that I can use to better myself and my writing.
2.His story about the man who got shot after he drunkenly threw pickles at a car grabbed my attention the most, and I found it interesting that he incorporated what he knew and experienced into his story. Throughout the year, we have read novels by authors who also write about stories or events they're familiar with, such as Willa Cather in My Antonia or Loung Ung in First They Killed My Father, and so I was intrigued when Nickolas Butler revealed that he does this as well. I can apply this idea to my own writing by thinking about the things I am most familiar with and how I can turn them into a story. Writing about stories or information I already know can make ideas and inspiration come much more easily than writing about what I do not know or what I'm not familiar with.
One thing that really stuck out to me during Nickolas Butler's performance was when he was reading a chapter from his book called "Shotgun Lovesongs". He had so many parts in that short chapter that were very descriptive and it created a great image in my head. I remembered this part of his reading because it was something that really inspired me. His long sentences with great descriptive words caught my attention. I think I can really learn from this and apply it to my own writing because it can really draw the readers in. It also helps create an image of the setting of the story which is very important. Another thing about Butler's presentation that stood out to me was the story about the man throwing pickles. I thought it was a very bizarre yet funny story that stood out to me. He explained that he used this story and put it his book "Shotgun Lovesongs" because he wanted other people to hear this story too. I think this is a good idea to take real life experiences and put it in your writing. It can make writing easier but it can also create make the story seem more realistic.
During Nickolas Butler’s presentation, his short story, “Rainwater,” was able to really catch my attention. Personally, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother who would watch over my sister and I during the day, while my parents were working hard at their jobs. Initially, it was somewhat difficult for me to understand why a grandparent wouldn’t want to spend time with his/her grandchildren. However, later I realized that the concept of raising a child and spending time with one are two extremely different actions. After pondering the idea, it seemed logical how some grandparents would decide that raising their grandchild is past their limit of comfort. The fact that his short story was created based off of his grandfather’s actions, was inspiring to see how literature can be conceived on the detailed questions of the people in our own lives. Next time I have the chance to write a creative writing piece, I’ll try to think of different characters based off of my own experiences with friends and strangers. Maybe I’ll write a short story about first generation struggles for a child, or possibly from an adult perspective. Or I could experiment with a character who has just recently moved and is now feeling uncomfortable and alone.
Another story I enjoyed was his almost unrealistic story about the unfortunate events of a pickle-thrower. Besides the humor, I thought the idea of a drunken man throwing pickles at a car, and consequently being shot, was almost too unbelievable to be true. But then I remembered the stupidity of mankind, and found validity in his tale. Although I have not read his novel yet, I was impressed by his writing because it consists of events from personal experience. Thinking about the other novels I have read in the past, it made me wonder which authors hid some truth behind some events in their fictional storyline. Especially with his backstory about an average man who pursued his passion out of desperation, and yet found success in what he enjoys in is inspiring to say the least. In the future, I will attempt to use my own experiences and passions as the foundation for my next piece of literature. I will try not to force an idea into writing, but be patient and find a topic I myself am interested in in order to further develop my voice as a writer and my passion for writing.
Nickolas Butler's story about the man throwing the pickles grabbed my attention. It was a funny story that seemed kind of far fetched, but still believable. He brought this story up because he has a similar scene in his book, and asked a student in the audience if she had found is believable. He then went on to say that something along the lines of having his stories have a little bit of truth in them to make them believable. This is applicable to my writing, as we often say that we should write off of past experiences. Also, he wrote his whole book because of this one story, and that I should find something I want to write about.
Another thing he talked about was keeping his sentences short. He said that his teacher wanted him to have shorter sentences that had more of an impact, and I believe that long sentences sometimes overwhelm the reader. Keeping sentences short and to the point is sometimes better than overloading them with large amounts of details.
The argument between Nikolas Butler and his teacher really stuck with me when he told us why he wrote it the way he did. This is only because I have the same problem unless I pay attention. I never know when one thought ends and another one begins. I could try to do the very same thing in my writing but I don’t know if i'm ready for that big of a challenge. Even with restricted sentence length he didn't lack any detail and I couldn’t even tell half the time.
The other thing that stood out was when he told us about his past just because I think someone's past says a lot about them now. He was very humble when he talked he didn’t brag about how he came from nothing just because he was that good. Also, he didn’t act like he did everything on his own he gave credit to his wife for always being there for him. He seemed to have this personality that even though he's a pretty big author he is just like any normal person. This reminds me how powerful backstory can be in characterization of my own writing.