I can’t think of a better way to start 2014 than by sharing the following interview with local writer and Frequency instructor, Ren Evans. Ren will be teaching Long Form Fiction beginning Feb. 4. The class is offered on a sliding scale. Once you read what Ren has to say about novels and long form work, I think you’ll agree that this class is not to be missed.
For a chance to hear Ren read, make sure to come to our reading and open house on Jan 15, 7PM at 186 Carpenter. Ren will be reading along with the rest of our winter instructors.
Ren, what is a novel?
A novel is a great many things.
Sometimes, a novel is just a shape, a form. With most forms, the first thing you see is the surface. You can build an intricate system, let the components interact and then you can see it in motion on the surface like ripples in water.
I think most writing is a relationship between creating space and honing in/getting close to the questions at the center.
Sometimes, the novel is a room, or a house with many rooms. You enter the room and the question arises: What do we do in this space? How does one interact with it and with everything inside of it? Then writing becomes movement, a performance inside the space of the novel. We keep returning to the same spots, revisiting points of rupture or trauma that allow for the investigation of edges.
Sometimes, we want the novel to have an answer at its center but hopefully there is actually a question in the belly of the thing. Answers never challenge. The thing cannot move without a question.
Sometimes, the novel is a body. I often think of the narrative as the circulation inside that body, multiple intricately connected trajectories. If the novel is a body, we must think of the shape of that body, the space it inhabits, how that body moves and who it loves. The body is written and unfolds and becomes and the body is the story.
Sometimes a novel is time. Novels hold time in a way that other forms do not. It’s the right amount of space to talk about time, to fold it, and stretch and compress it. There is poetry in the way narrative is measured, in its attention to sentence, the rhythm, the rise and the fall of narrative as it intersects with prosody.
I am interested in the hybrid novel and the poet’s novel and all the ways in which, we as writers, can explore form. I recently read an essay called Incidents of Time Travel by Laura Moriarty and there is a part where she talks about reading poetic narrative and she writes, ” Reading poetic narrative, we are slowed down and speeded up at the same time. We have a feeling we aren’t getting anywhere in the sense of events occurring, except the events of language.” I like the idea that in narrative, in the long fiction form, language can be the event, that the explosion or implosion, the meaning can happen within the sentence itself. This is really exciting to me because it means you are using everything, that one thing does not simply transport the other, but that both language and story are in a constant collaboration.
Ren Evans is a writer, teacher, book designer and multi-media artist living in Providence. Co-editor and founder of the online literary journal Digital Artifact, Ren also publishes the bi-annual comic book series The Secret Life. Ren received an MFA in fiction from Bard College and has taught creative writing and bookmaking in San Francisco and Providence. Currently, Ren is at work on a novella entitled Lost Boys.