In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard wrote,
I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
On the first of each month, a guest writer shares how he or she spends the day. This month, something different! Today, guest host Jodi Paloni introduces the next writer in the series, and on the first, we’ll have an interview!
October 1, 2014: David Jauss
photo credit: Arkansas Literary Festival
by GUEST HOST JODI PALONI
I first met Cynthia Martin climbing the long stairway leading to the chapel room, a grand space, at Vermont College of Fine Arts on our way to a faculty reading. I can’t remember which of our many teachers read that night, but I do remember a walk downtown afterwards and talking with Cynthia about the writing projects we were most excited about, and the daunting, yet fabulous adventure of going for our MFA degrees in Writing. That was over four years ago. Cynthia and I have been talking writing ever since.
It is my great pleasure to be a guest host at Catching Days and an even greater pleasure to introduce the next writer in the series, David Jauss. Cynthia and I share a mutual admiration for the Vermont College mentor we both respect, and more, we mutually regard him for the writer he is, the way in which his own fiction “walks his talk.”
But the first piece I ever read by Dave was not a work of fiction. It was an essay from a first edition hardcover publication (fresh off the press!) of his collection of craft essays, Alone with All That Could Happen: Rethinking Conventional Wisdom about the Craft of Fiction. The current paperback version is titled, On Writing Fiction, but I admit that I like the original title far better. It tells us so much about the contents of the book and “alone with all that could happen” was also exactly how I felt approaching the degree program, until I met Dave.
I first met Dave over a meal in the Dewey Hall cafeteria at Vermont College, the summer residency 2009. He asked me what I had been reading lately, and I responded, “Wait a sec. I have to think.” He laughed and said the same thing sometimes happens to him. We did manage to stitch together a conversation about the authors we each enjoyed, and afterwards, I walked to the college bookstore and bought his book of essays. The next morning, I took Alone With All That Could Happen and a cup of coffee to a bench in a small park in downtown Montpelier to begin my formal education in writing fiction.
How can writers blame their readers for failing to recognize that fiction is fiction, not truth, when we do everything we can to make them believe something we imagined is true.
I would spend the next two years trying to do just that. Dave’s book became my MFA bible. Other chapters found more marks, especially the craft essay on point of view, a lesson I needed to study several times until I finally got the teaching to show up in my work. More recently, I turned to his chapter “Stacking Stones: Building a Unified Story Collection” when my stories were finally ready to be, well, stacked.
But Dave is far more than a beloved teacher and an astute craft essayist. He is a fine short story writer and a poet, with many books to show for decades of days spent tapping the words onto the page, including his latest–Glossolalia, New and Collected Works–published by Press 53.
Come back on OCTOBER 1st for a Catching Days interview with DAVID JAUSS.