Here’s one imperfect and ecologically unsound metaphor for revision: carving a figurine you can hold in the palm of your hand from a felled redwood. When you begin, the possibilities loom before you, and your initial cuts will be crude as you make choices to keep certain parts, lop off others. As you work a cross section of log down to a manageable size, you must change tools, from axe and saw to gouge and chisel. The shape of the object becomes more apparent – a four legged creature with a long neck – and the details more precise – ears, tail, nostrils. Over time and practice, the thing looks more like the vision the artist held in their mind when they started, altered by the process itself to become even richer, more complex, and surprising to both the artist and their audience(s).
Revision is, among other things, a practice of faith and patience. Without knowing exactly what the final version will look like or how to get there, a writer sits down with their work and tries to imitate a first-time reader, summon their higher self, and be as ruthless as possible. In this workshop, we will cultivate that ruthless and compassionate inner writer, exploring different revision practices available to you at different stages in the life cycle of your work in prose (fiction or nonfiction). We’ll read about other writers’ processes and strategies for bringing “fresh eyes” to the page. After reflecting on what your works needs, you will embark on a series of guided exercises that will improve your story, essay, chapter, or whatever, and also enhance your writing practice. In the life cycle of any work of art, the initial composition makes up a tiny stage, and so much of the discovery, refinement, and craftsmanship that can take place only in revision end up shaping not only the work but also the artist.
In addition to training your eyes and ears to your own written voice, this revision-focused workshop aims to put you in touch with your own humanity so that your work may reach other people. After hundreds of hours in the workshop, the woodworker might Edit visibilityhand the carved animal to a child who feels the smooth object and delights at once in a moment of recognition: a giraffe.
Claire Fuqua Anderson is a writer, teacher, and editor in Houston, Texas. She is currently a lecturer in the English Department at the University of Houston, where she also supervises graduate teaching fellows. She received her MFA in fiction from the University of Houston in 2014, and in 2017 received an Individual Artist Grant from the Houston Arts Alliance. She has taught creative writing workshops at Inprint, Boldface Conference, and Grackle & Grackle Writing Enterprises, and has worked on the editorial staff of Gulf Coast and R2: The Rice Review. She is writing a novel set in the Texas Panhandle during the Dust Bowl.