Meeting Wrap-Up 08 June 2021

Last night, we decided that, if we can have an in-person reading at Café POW, we will! Kelly will be checking with them today about how that works and getting back to me and then I’ll get back to you and you’ll get back to me and I’ll get back to Kelly, and she’ll get back to POW and and and in circles like that until we’ve turned into butter, which is a reference to a highly racist children’s book from the 50s, but which was nonetheless read to me as a child in the 70s, and despite the racism, I still think the idea of tigers running themselves into butter is pretty fantastic, but let’s not do that to ourselves, and instead wait for word from Kelly about what we can and cannot do at POW. I’ll let you know. The tentative date for this hootenanny is Tuesday, 20 July @ 19:00.

Last night, I rambled on (and on) about the sentence, only to find, in the end, that I was still actually just talking about the paragraph. That’s not entirely true. The two most important things we learned about the sentence last night came from two places: Brian Kiteley and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Kiteley says (in the 3 a.m. Epiphany) is this: “What I’m after, when I try to build interesting paragraphs, is a complex pattern of variations, not only of rhythm and timing but of sense and logic.” These “complex pattern[s]” are of course built with sentences. Rhythm and timing are created by sentence length and complexity. Sense and logic are built not only within sentences themselves, but also in the ways sentences sit next to each other (one might also talk about the metaphoric space between sentences). What we learned from Merriam-Webster is that there is no decree in the base definition of the word sentence that a sentence has to make sense to be a sentence. This is despite the fact that the word sentence comes from the Latin sententia, meaning “feeling, opinion,” and from *sentent-, *sentens, irregular present participle of sentire, meaning “to feel,” and that one can find more etymological information under the definition of the word sense, though in this case, that’s “sense” as in the senses and not “sense” as in meaning making, but really, how do we make meaning out of the world if not via our senses, and, quite honestly, the definition of “sentence” is a many-forking rabbit hole down which we have now fallen and at the bottom of which we will nearly drown in our own tears until we are washed through a keyhole, but this seems to be previously trod ground, I mean, ‘twas brillig, and the slithy toves etc.

We also used exercise #131: Repetition from Kiteley’s Epiphany to write some sentences that were connected to each other in a way not normally used when writing “fluently,” but which then still managed to create some very full, very beautiful, and very sense-making paragraphs.

Could I interest you in everything all of the time? Everything, of course, meaning everything, absolutely everything all of the time, and not a bit less, and if you’d like to take issue with the word on a philosophical level (EVERYTHING cannot possibly be encompassed and therefore . . .) be my guest, but I’m also not kidding and won’t back down. I’ll ask again, because I am deadly serious: Could I interest you in everything all of the time? In fact, let’s look at my seriousness: You think my offer is for snake oil, but if you consider the actuality of the offer, you’ll understand that every kind of snake oil and also ever cure is contained within. And what does that have to do with my level of seriousness, you ask? I’m so glad you asked, because I couldn’t possibly be offering you EVERYTHING in seriousness, could I? But it is not mine to offer, you protest rightfully. I respect your protest, and repeat my offer. I find that repetition is the best way to create myth. I find that creation repeats itself endlessly. I find that endlessness is one of the hallmarks of EVERYTHING, and how, again, could I possibly be offering you EVERYTHING ALL OF THE TIME? I must somehow be lying, must somehow actually be offering some Hallmark Card version of the TOTALITY OF THINGS, some rhyming, pithy extract which actually only makes us feel worse about whatever it was someone gave us the card for in the first place. Why didn’t they attempt to express their own thoughts instead of relying on the boiled, tasteless version of reality presented in a card? . . .

Next Meeting: 08 June 2021 @ 19:00

The first thing we need to decide next Tuesday is if and how we are having a summer reading!

And then we probably need to do some writing and then do some talking about writing.

The obvious topic, after last month’s discussion around the paragraph, would be the sentence. Remember when I said I didn’t find much on the paragraph? One could teach a semester-long course on the theory of the sentence. We don’t have a semester; we have half an hour or something, which is fine! It’s fine! We’ll make it work!

But yes, let’s talk about the sentence. Let’s talk about what the word “sentence” means and where it came from. Let’s talk about the three kinds of sentences and how they work. Let’s talk about sentences in prose, the rhythm they create or don’t, the connections they create or don’t. Let’s write some sentences and talk about them.

Here’s a little homework:
Read this: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sentence
And this: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/z4m8r2p

Meeting Wrap-up from 11 May 2021

Last night, we talked about the paragraph. We talked about it as a thing with form, and we talked about it as a thing with content.

In terms of a thing with form, we decided that since the paragraph’s formal use is to guide the eye across and/or through the text, it can look like pretty much anything: The first line can be indented or outdented; it can be marked off with extra white space; it can have hanging caps; it can make use of a pilcrow or a fleuron.

Things got a little more complex when we attempted to figure out the paragraph as a thing with content. Initially, the consensus was that a paragraph

  • gives structure to movement
  • encapsulates an idea

I did not think of the example of The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker last night, a 200 page book in which the narrator’s movement over the course of the novel is simply into the building and up an escalator, a 200 page book full of paragraphs, but the obvious reply to that example would have been “there is also movement in thought,” and The Mezzanine is 200 pages of the narrator’s thoughts, so . . .

We are all taught in composition courses that a paragraph should contain a single idea. This seems obvious, and, to a certain extent, it is. However, last night we played a kind of paragraph-based game of Exquisite Corpse. There were 12 of us in Zoom, and we were (in my view) presented as three rows of four columns of faces. Each column wrote a paragraph: The top person wrote the first sentence, the middle person wrote the middle sentence, and the bottom person wrote the concluding sentence. Everyone wrote at the same time. No one knew what anyone else was writing. And because there is no such thing as a true non-sequitur, the paragraphs we produced, despite maybe not exactly containing or covering a single idea, still worked, and the ideas expressed within them became, by dint of sheer proximity, singular. But see for yourself:

Adriana/Padumachitta/Kelly:
When he opened the lid, a kitten was waiting there, eating a dead mouse with a fork. However, stepping past all of that, George eased himself out of the conversation. I finished the chicken breast, put the radish green in the worm compost, washed my hands, and brushed my hair, in that order; I then sat on the carpet to sip single malt and listen to the rain.

Shawn/Donald/Kim:
The trees decided they no longer wanted to be where they were. That, however, was not the only problem they faced. However, we can sum that up as atypical, semi-medical and futuristic.

Ilana/Franziska/Ivan:
I don’t know where it went wrong, I only know that I need you to close your windows, sever the connection and leave my body until you become forgettable. But then something happened. It is the one who has come from the ocean: a new mirror of the outer space.

Red Baron/Stephanie/Jasmin:
On a sunny afternoon a postman was walking along the bushes that framed a row of single houses. When she sat at her desk to write the last chapter of the story, she had an epiphany. Or at least, from a certain point of view, it seemed that way.


Our next meeting will take place on 08 June 2021 at 19:00. We hope to see you there!

Meeting: 11 May 2021 @ 19:00

This blog is built with WordPress. Every time I write a new post, there is a column to the right of the composition window in which, toward the top, one finds this:

Is the paragraph the building block of all narrative?

I could have sworn the sentence was the building block of all narrative.

And anyway, what does “the building block of all narrative” even mean?


Let’s talk about the paragraph next week. What does it look like? How does it work? What is its purpose? What can it do? Is it important? How is it different in English and German and _____________?


Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, 11 May 2021 at 19:00. We will, as currently usual, meet in Zoom. If you do not already have the link to that meeting, please request one from freiburgwritersgroup [at] gmail [dot] com, or join our Telegram group!

Wrap-up & Reminder

Last night was, again, as always, lovely. Thank you all for coming!

We started off talking about the essay, the genre able to hold all other genres, and the genre most frequently associated with figuring out what one thinks about a certain topic.

We talked about the history of the genre, about Sei Shonagon’s pillow book, about Michel de Montaigne’s erudition, and about how both made use of prose, poetry, lists, descriptions, journaling, reportage, rumor, history, gossip, etc.

We did not talk about how both were members of the aristocracy and what kind of difference that makes in the life of writing, but there’s never time for everything.

We eventually discussed the etymology of the word “essay.” (from the Middle French essai (to attempt), ultimately from Late Latin exagium act of weighing, from Latin ex– + agere to drive — more at AGENT)

We eventually also realized that every genre can hold every other genre and that this interpenetration is the project of post-modernism.

We, also as usual, looked at an exercise in Brian Kiteley’s 3am Epiphany: “#84, Fact and Fancy,” which asks the writer to alternate factual, “objective” sentences with personal, “subjective” sentences and pay attention to the tensions created between sentences.

And we started writing essays on various topics. Since we all attempted, we were all successful.

Eventually, the conversation turned to turning off your inner critic, and I realized that writing requires first: turning off the inner pig-dog (Schweinehund) and second: turning off the inner critic.

Join us next time for more critical pig-dog shenanigans!

In the meantime: Don’t forget:

Tonight, Wednesday, 14 April @ 19:00 the Carl-Schurz-Haus will be hosting a reading and discussion with Courtney Zoffness, author of Spilt Milk.

Spilt Milk is a collection of essays that address the question, “What role does a mother play in raising thoughtful, generous children?” In her literary debut, internationally award-winning writer Courtney Zoffness considers what we inherit from generations past―biologically, culturally, spiritually―and what we pass on to our children. Spilt Milk is an intimate, bracing, and beautiful exploration of vulnerability and culpability. Zoffness relives her childhood anxiety disorder as she witnesses it manifest in her firstborn; endures brazen sexual advances by a student in her class; grapples with the implications of her young son’s cop obsession; and challenges her Jewish faith. Where is the line between privacy and secrecy? How do the stories we tell inform who we become?

More information can be found here.

This Week

Not only will we be meeting tomorrow evening at 19:00 (see previous post), but

This Wednesday, 14 April @ 19:00 the Carl-Schurz-Haus will be hosting a reading and discussion with Courtney Zoffness, author of Spilt Milk.

Spilt Milk is a collection of essays that address the question, “What role does a mother play in raising thoughtful, generous children?” In her literary debut, internationally award-winning writer Courtney Zoffness considers what we inherit from generations past―biologically, culturally, spiritually―and what we pass on to our children. Spilt Milk is an intimate, bracing, and beautiful exploration of vulnerability and culpability. Zoffness relives her childhood anxiety disorder as she witnesses it manifest in her firstborn; endures brazen sexual advances by a student in her class; grapples with the implications of her young son’s cop obsession; and challenges her Jewish faith. Where is the line between privacy and secrecy? How do the stories we tell inform who we become?

More information can be found here.

Reminder: Next Meeting!

Our next meeting will take place on

Tuesday, 13 April 2021 @ 19:00 on Zoom

We will likely, as per usual, spend some time writing, and then discussing the writing we just made. We might also talk about Pandemic Fatigue, because boy howdy am I ready for this country to get its poop in a group. I mean, aren’t you?

Here’s a random image I found by typing “pandemic fatigue” into Google Image Search:

Longing & Belonging: An Online Poetry Reading and Discussion with Hanna Andrews and Eryn Green

Please join the Carl-Schurz-Haus on Thursday, 25 March at 19:00 CET for an online reading by and discussion with American poets Hanna Andrews and Eryn Green.  
You can register for the event here!  

Hanna and Eryn live with their daughter in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hanna’s most recent book, Slope Move (2012, reprinted 2020), deals with motion, travel, and belonging. Eryn’s most recent book, Beit (2020) is an exploration of the concept of home. Hanna and Eryn will read from their work and talk to Shawn Huelle about, among other things, the concepts of longing and belonging. You can find more information here!  

Feel free to spread the word, and I look forward to seeing you there!

Meeting Wrap-Up from 09 March 2021

Last night, we performed revision as an act of violence. Normally, revision is a process of massaging and filing, of making something incrementally better. Sometimes, however, the text isn’t working or we need a different insight or a different perspective or, you know, every act of destruction is also an act of creation.

So we each took a short text we felt was finished and then applied Pound’s dictum “make it new,” except that we changed it a little to “break it new.”

How do you “break” a text? The possibilities are endless, really, but here are some examples:

  • cut it up à la Burroughs
  • delete every xth word
  • n+7 (replace every noun with the noun that comes seven places after the original noun in the dictionary)
  • retype the whole text/single sentences/single lines backward
  • switch perspectives
  • change the setting
  • change the tense
  • insert new words new sentences new paragraphs new pages non-sequiturs footnotes endnotes bifurcations interpolations endlessly nested parentheticals
  • anagram it
  • again mart
  • Maria gnat

We then talked about the process: With what did we start? How did we go about breaking it? How did that work and how did we feel about it? What did we end up with? What did we learn? How will we continue?

How will we continue?

It was great to see so many faces last night! I hope to see you all again in the near future! Perhaps in the library and perhaps at our next meeting, which will be on Tuesday, 13 April at 19:00.

In the meantime, don’t forget the reading on Thursday, 25 March at 19:00 with poets Hanna Andrews and Eryn Green!

Meeting 09 March 2021

Don’t forget our next meeting will take place on Tuesday, 09 March 2021 at 19:00 in Zoom.

If you would like to join us, please either join our Telegram Group or send an email to freiburgwritersgroup[at]gmail[dot]com.

Last time, we talked about revision and knowing when a piece is done. This time, we’d like to try something within that realm. Please bring some small piece of writing you think is finished, and we’ll work with it.

We look forward to seeing you there!