Breaking It Down

From PaperLanternLane

One thing I miss about school is sitting around the table with a group of readers and taking a story — usually a short story — and breaking it down to see how it works.

Today I came across this Podcast at The New Yorker:  it’s my favorite writing teacher, ZZ Packer, reading “Paper Lantern” and then talking with Deborah Treisman about the mechanics.  Here’s the audio link:  Paper Lantern by Stuart Dybek.  If there’s anything that helps me figure out my own writing, it’s seeing how someone else pulls it off.  I started out enjoying the story, ZZ’s voice, and her great big laugh, but ended up with the perfect writing prompt for today.


P.S.  We’ve been talking about the importance of libraries lately.  How about this Dybek quote: “The public library is where place and possibility meet.”  My 10 year old self would have agreed.

13 thoughts on “Breaking It Down

  1. Downith

    Look forward to listening when the kids are back at school next week.

    That quote reminds me of something Lizi said in response to my libraries post: “All you need is a card and curiousity.”

  2. Lisa Golden

    I just finished listening to ZZ read the story and then discuss it. Wow. Okay, I really need to go back to school. I want to be in the world where people pay attention like that.

    1. Teri

      There’s a reason she was my favorite teacher. I can remember reading somebody’s story for the week (a fellow student’s) and thinking, “This is terrible. There’s nothing here to discuss.” Then I’d come to class and ZZ would find 25 things that worked, or could work, and we’d talk about it for 45 minutes.

      When I say I learned a lot from her, I’m not exaggerating. She made me think differently about my work.

  3. Pingback: Lisa Sings the Blues | Lisa H Golden

  4. Laura Maylene

    I love the New Yorker podcasts but haven’t listened to this one yet, so thanks!

    I’ve had libraries on the brain lately, too. In the first chapter of my novel-in-progress, an 11-year-old Opal goes to the library, which is of course a magical place for her. And I’m currently in the process of trying to arrange a meeting at a library in my old hometown.

    I really need to get myself an I Heart Libraries t-shirt, stat.

    1. Teri

      I’m so glad to look forward to reading Opal’s story … And about those I *heart* libraries t-shirts? Now I want one too. Let me know if you find a good one!

  5. Lyra

    How I love these podcasts. I look forward to this one.

    I think my favorite part about college was sitting in that class and having a professor break down a story. Too bad I was young and stupid at the time…youth really is wasted on the young, isn’t it?

    1. Teri

      Yes. I’m thinking all “kids” should work for a few years at a really tough job and then go to school. As much as it was a pain, I’m glad I went as a 30-something.

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