summer school!

For the third year, I will be teaching Telling True Stories at the Loft in downtown Minneapolis this summer. This six-week class focuses on how we tell true stories--where do we get ideas? what norms should we follow? what inspires us? what ethical dilemmas do we face?

I am grateful to my past students for the insights and elegance they have shown . Telling true stories can be scary and opens up the writer to vulnerabilities, and I'm always impressed by the level of honesty and support in the classroom. Plus, we laugh a lot.

Using sample of fabulous creative nonfiction from a variety of authors, we will write to prompts, share our writing, and support one other on our journeys. It's a great class that can really catapult a motivated writer.

Anika FajardoComment
teaching

I taught fiction basics to a group of middle schoolers last weekend. It was fun--really, it was. The kids were enthusiastic, strange, confused, excited, and scattered. But the thing that felt missing to me was the truth-telling.

You see, I'm used to teaching about nonfiction and I missed the commitment to the truth. Sure, it's fun to make up characters and setting, but what a challenge to figure out how to tell a story that really happened in an interesting way.

This weekend I'll be teaching again, but this class is about essays and I can't wait. For the first time, I'll be using this gem by Nicole Stellon O'Donnell, which appeared in Brevity. I'm excited to see how the students (adults this time) react and what they come up with. Our true stories are powerful.

good things coming (aka those who wait)

I spent the weekend at a cabin with my very dear writer friend. We drank at least five pots of coffee and one bottle of wine and ate a lot of gummy bears. We also got sore backs and tired eyes from staring at our laptops. But it was all worth it because we were deep in the work of writing.

When I returned home, a large manila envelope awaited me. An envelope containing my first book publishing contract.

I've been writing--and taking a few similar retreats--like this for years now. And suddenly, looking at the post-it that says "Sign here," it feels like all the work, all those extra calories and abandoned housework and too much caffeine is paying off.

There's a lot more work to do today and beyond. But I'm going to have a glass of champgne first.

 

Anika FajardoComment
if at first you don't succeed

For the past half-decade, I have been sending out manuscripts in the hopes of attracting a literary agent. There have been multiple projects, multiple versions of those projects, and multiple techniques. I sought advice from other writers, hired editors, magazine articles, and websites. And over the years, I have collected over 60 rejections from agents.

"This project isn't quite right for me."
"I don't think I have the right contacts for this."
"This doesn't fit my list at this time."
"It just didn't resonate with me."
"The market is tough right now."

I don't know what kept me going through all the rejection. Maybe it was sheer masochism, maybe it was naivete, maybe it was stupid optimism. Or maybe it was something else: a deep belief in my work and what I'm trying to do as a writer. Whatever the reason, I kept going. Kept writing, kept submitting.

And last week, I signed with Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. I'm thrilled to put my work into her hands and let it go out into the world. For the moment, I am living a happy ending. Even though it's only a beginning.

Anika FajardoComment
the blessing of teaching

Whenever I teach writing at the Loft Literary Center, I am always amazed by the dedication of the students, the quality of the writing (based on sometimes crazy prompts), the bravery of the writers in sharing their messy first drafts, and the intensity of the discussions. 

We have been told that the Twin Cities is one of the most literary metropolitan areas and, based on the people I see at the Loft, I can believe it.

Sometimes I get to see these writers again and hear how they're doing, and sometimes I send them off into their own notebooks and laptops. I hope that they all continue writing because they each have amazing and powerful stories to tell.

Anika FajardoComment