I'm sitting at home now eating spicy stewed collard greens (no I didn't make them from scratch, I'm not that talented). I came back a couple hours ago from USF, where I departed early from the VONA student reading. I had read a piece that I wrote in Jessica Hagedorn's character development master class, from the point of view of a character named David, who has just had sex with his (straight male) best friend of 10 years and is regretting it.
It was fun and fascinating studying under Jessica. She's witty, quick, smart as hell, funny, down-to-earth and opinionated as all get out. She was straightforward and honest with her criticism, and gave us some good exercises to help flesh out our characters (in my case, David was a fairly flat side-character in my story, with his best friend being the point of view character and protagonist; working in Jessica's class helped me figure out some important stuff that's going to help me finish my story and make it stronger).
I'm realizing how cool and achievable it is--with lots of hard work, diligence and attention--to write fiction. Good fiction. Not that my story is near being finished, but it's a lot better now than it was a few months ago (I just workshopped it in Junse Kim's fiction workshop as well, which finished up right before VONA jumped off). If I apply myself, learn my craft, and listen to my characters, I can create a story that is both intriguing as well as entertaining.
I rented two big favorites of mine to help me come down from my VONA high--I haven't watched TV in a few days now--The Empire Strikes Back and Rome: Season One, Volume 2. I have fairly 'low brow' taste when it comes to cinema, although I do like a good art house or foreign flick now and again. Both of these films contain well-told stories, however, but they don't beat you over the head with their cleverness. They draw you in without holding your hand, and immerse you in worlds so real with characters so human and flawed and fascinating that you can't resist going along for the ride.
And that's what I'm going for with my story. Tonight after I hugged Jessica good-bye she looked me straight in the eyes, her hands squaring my shoulders towards her and said, "Keep working. I want you to finish that story. Just finish it." I couldn't have asked for more succinct encouragement, and it couldn't come at a better time.