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by Minda Reves
Just call me the Treasurer of the Roxane Gay Fan Girl Club, because that woman is a cot jamb gem! Like any good dues-paying member of the RGFGC, I hastily enrolled in both of the spring Fly-By Writer’s Workshop Project’s seminars, “The Brutal Language of Love” (Hey, I write about love!) and “In/Out” (Hey, I write memoir!).
The thing is, I didn’t realize what a big club the RGFGC is until I showed up Saturday afternoon to a basement full of bodies in chairs and was humbled by the empty seat I had to take in the back row. Sure TIME magazine is singing her praises and her writing on BuzzFeed and Salon pops up in my FaceBook feed with regular frequency, but still, somehow, I thought her words were the secret joy of those in the know. It was like it was 1999 all over again and I came across some MP3 of some dope band on Napster. I thought I discovered them, only to later learn they had a top 40 hit in rotation on the radio. It didn’t make me Fan Girl any less, but it did make me wish I’d shown up early enough to snag a better seat.
On Saturday, during “The Brutal Language of Love” workshop, Roxane taught us that if you want your words to be genuine portrayals of love, you have to move beyond that fairytale love you believed in as a teen and write around that porno sex teenage boys grow up believing is the real thing, no Prince Charmings or Naughty Nurses! She called for complex characters, she insisted on flaws and she demanded we figure out what our stories were about in terms of desire.
The “In/Out” workshop on Sunday played out a little differently. After providing some solid groundwork advice on memoir (What? You think I’m going to give away all of her secrets? You should have been there!), Roxane turned the rest of the time over to us for questions. All questions were good questions, no really, every single question was worthwhile and every single question received an even worthier response.
On behalf of all the workshop attendees, I’d like to thank Roxane for leading two very excellent workshops and taking photos and signing books afterward. It’s likely impossible that you run in literary circles and haven’t heard about Roxane Gay’s highly acclaimed new novel, An Untamed State, but it’s available at Tattered Cover (they’ll bring some to the Lit Fest book fair) and will soon be joined on the shelves by a collection of essays, Bad Feminist.
Minda Reves will be an MFA candidate in Creative Non-Fiction this fall at the University of California, Riverside. She will contribute to TheMFAYears.com through the duration of her program. Meanwhile, she’ll be sitting through bad dates just for the story and tending to her own little plot of the worldwide web at MindaHoney.com.