It's a brisk spring day in mid April. The cherry blossoms are blooming at the Lewis H. Latimer House in Flushing, and a group of writers are taking a (free) master class in fiction writing led by Min Jin Lee, author of Free Food for Millionaires and Pachinko, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction and a The New York Times bestseller.
In the first half, Ms. Lee asks the class to identify the emotions and themes that matter to them on a deeply personal level. A book, she explains, is an investment of 12-15 hours of your time. In our fast paced world with a wealth of competing distractions, if something is not compelling to you as a writer, how can you expect to hold your reader's interest?
From the themes identified by each individual, she asks them to dig deeper and to extract the essential question that each of those themes represents. Your theme was loss and regret? Perhaps the essential question was your unresolved relationship with your lover. You spoke of abandonment issues? Maybe you are expressing your fear of dying alone.
In the second half of the class, we do a free write exercise on the moment in our lives when a person was most angry with us. Then we workshop the piece—all 22 of us. No piece is a polished, finished product. Many are revelatory, even to the writers themselves. Some are raw and emotional. Apparently many of us have issues that arise from our relationships with our mothers.
We end the afternoon, having run 40 minutes beyond the advertised time, emotionally exhausted and intellectually fulfilled. And also full—teacher brought donuts!
Newtown Literary has 2 more free classes this year. Don't miss out. Check newtownliterary.org/writingclasses for more information.