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Blank Slate

Blank Slate

By Kristen Thompson, Associate Director, Bluegrass Writers Studio

     Bluegrass Writers Studio's Winter Residency 2014 begins today! As participants check in, they'll be given a name tag, a schedule, and a restaurant guide to top off the stacks of papers that started with their writing. Sandwiched in the middle will be the manuscripts of their workshop-mates.

     In the low-residency world, much of the year's work happens online. Whether you're a pencil-and-paper sort or a screen typist, eventually your work will be turned in electronically with one-inch margins and 12-point reader-friendly font. The beauty of Times New Roman is that it's the great equalizer. Gone are the days when bad penmanship earned you the dunce cap even if you had a great imagination. And gone, too, is any styling - Comic Sans, Lucida Handwriting (shudder) - that tells you how to feel about the work before you even read it. Once in a while, someone may insist on sans-serif and show up for critique in Helvetica, but it's not too jarring.

     In the online courses, edit notes from your peers come in the form of comment boxes, courtesy of the word processing software. Some people are born-and-bred computer users, dedicated to the screen, and haven't printed a document since the Euro rolled off the presses.

     But when residency rolls around, my old-school book lovers, there is a wonderful sound in the air - papers being shuffled. In the poetry workshop, one poem might march all the way across the page, puffing itself out like an alarmed cat, while others float a few words into the air. And then there is this whiteness. Above, below, to the left, to the right ... there is space. An emptiness that contains all possibility. It's so - poetic. Then we sit around and annotate that page to the last bit of free pulp, like literary termites.

     Hey, come on, I said it was poetic. A cameo appearance by Death is nearly required.

     Anyway, my friends, the point is that all of our text and scribblings - both the note and the noted - still contain possibility. It doesn't matter who thinks you should flesh out the Death character and who thinks you should leave him out entirely and who says "Why is Death always a 'he'?" Because no matter how the margins fill, no one ever truly runs out of blank slate. There's another shaggy steno pad or bar napkin, or a new .docx to create. Even without the tangible, without pens or computers or even hands, we compose. You compose.

     A new year. A fresh snow. Ten days of reading, writing, and perhapsing. Never forget how clean your slate is.


Contact Information

Kristen Thompson

Published on January 01, 2014

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