Alison Clement

observations from a novelist who sometimes wants to say something small and see it published immediately

school

Man Ray and teaching

  I don’t tell my students about my doubts. I don’t say I think school is inferior to what we can learn through following our own curiosity, cultivating our own interests and developing our own course of study. I don’t say I’m convinced that the best way to learn to write isn’t found in the classroom. Read and pay attention. That’s how to learn. Listen to people talk. Find out […]

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I Dream of Obstacles

  The night before the term begins, I dream of trying to get to my classroom. I dream of obstacles. Instead of the community college where I work, I drive to a high school My car turns into a child’s tiny toy car and must sometimes be carried The first classroom I go into is a small bedroom The second is a stadium The third is a history class I […]

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to my high school English teacher

Dear Mrs. Gist, I remember when you were my English teacher and encouraged me to read poetry. I remember you took me to a reading competition, and I read a poem by Ferlinghetti. I remember once you assigned us to give show and tells, and I showed how to make a Molotov cocktail, which was an intentionally provocative choice on my part — and you jumped up from your seat in alarm. […]

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Larry Love

Am I including the subplot of Larry Love, the phony modeling agent, in my novel because the scenes I’ve written about it are my darlings? Do those scenes belong in the novel? My eugenics mystery. Or maybe eugenics thriller.  I spent last week talking to my students about the narrative thesis. Get rid of everything that falls outside of your focus. Just because you love something, doesn’t mean it belongs. […]

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The Northwest Blog Tour

(the official) NORTHWEST BLOG TOUR in which writers answer four questions and then post those answers to their blog What am I working on? So many things! Last week I finished a young adult novel, The 5 ½ Senses of Sophie LaVelle, based on the Tarot cards, a family curse and the 19th century secret society, The Golden Dawn. I did not write this because YA is a hot market, […]

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Man Ray

Man Ray once said if you don’t like something, then turn away from it. Just shut up and go to the next thing. I’m paraphrasing. Maybe it wasn’t even Man Ray. The last week of term. Impossible for me to critique one more thing. I read my workshop stories and don’t have one single useful comment. I just want to read the stories, that’s all. I don’t want to ask […]

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Axolotl and the defiance of thought

I’ve been thinking about this one story since I was 22 years old, but I never wrote it before. Okay, I wrote a nonfiction version. I wrote a fictional third person version, told as a report. I gave it up. And then Kerry showed us the short story, Axolotl, by Julio Cortázar. And Margery said what Cortázar did, his method, was to take a subject and stick with it, follow […]

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they don’t think at all

I write fiction, but decided instead of doing what I’ve been doing for the past few decades and sort of know how to do, I’d write a screenplay for my MFA thesis. I wanted to do something new, I said, pretending I don’t realize that every piece of writing requires something new. I wanted to watch more movies. Something school has put a damper on. I wanted to study with […]

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I don’t want to.

I’ve hardly looked at my current novel since I’ve been in school. Today I got it out and now I remember why. Suddenly most of the day is gone, and I don’t want to do anything else but write the story. I don’t want to grade papers, I don’t to do homework, I don’t want to work on my lesson plans, enter grades, read what I’m supposed to read, write […]

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