“I Never Became a Woodcutter and I Have Had as Little to Do with Wood as Was Humanly Possible”: Some PAT CONROY MONTH!!!! Silliness for Your Friday Morning, Brought to You By the Numbers 19 and 92 (by Bethany)

I may have mentioned once or twice before that, among other quirks, my high school education was marked by not one but two opportunities to imitate PAT CONROY’s writing style in exchange for a grade. This probably shouldn’t have happened, I know – there are other writers more worth imitating – but what can you do? The second such opportunity came during a creative writing class for which we had read The Lords of Discipline for summer reading and were assigned to imitate his style in the first story of the school year. That story has gone the way of the brontosaurus, I think – I’ve never been able to find it. Two years earlier, though, we were assigned to retell a well-known fairy tale in the style of any author, and since I was right smack in the middle of my PAT CONROY phase at the time, of course it was his style that I chose to mimic. Back then I generally wrote like PAT CONROY even when I wasn’t trying to – I had just absorbed so much of his style by osmosis that it took over my natural style for a while.

This is a fairly bold assignment to give high school sophomores. I have often modified it and assigned juniors to retell familiar stories in the style of a specific author that we have studied – usually Hemingway – but I would never give students the freedom to choose any writer at all. Hemingway is easy to mimic, and I always spent significant class time discussing his style. But, as I’ve noted before, my high school teachers trusted my classmates and me more than I trusted my students, at least most of the time.

But long story short: behold some excerpts from my Conroyvian retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story. At first I meant to include the whole story, but I decided that you don’t really need to be treated to all seven pages of my way-too-pleased-with-itself adolescent prose. You’re welcome. I’ve chosen a few snippets for your entertainment:

Conroy snippet 0

Hansel Joseph Braun, Sr. was a poor woodcutter. He was also a very violent man.” I remember giggling over those opening sentences for months. And “Braun” as a last name? A nice touch, even if I do say so myself.

Conroy snippet 1

Please note that these pages were produced on a typewriter. A real honest-to-god typewriter, albeit an electric one with built-in correction fluid and various other bells and whistles. I loved that typewriter and never spent so much as a minute envying people who had computers. Two years after this was written, when I was in AP English, Fr. Murphy (remember him?) used to tease me for being the only one in the senior class who still used a typewriter. I didn’t mind the teasing, but I was surprised by it. It never occurred to me that I was so behind the times.

Conroy snippet 2

PAT CONROY’s version of the Hansel and Gretel story has basketball in it, of course. “The opportunity for heroics in a world where wood holds little importance.” Hee hee hee.

Conroy snippet 3

Another side note: I photographed these pages in excellent light and did not PhotoShop them; my essays from high school really are this yellow. Excuse me while I go buy some Christmas jewelry.

Conroy snippet 4

In 1992 I was incapable of writing a story that did not include sexual assault. I wouldn’t even have known where to start.

Conroy snippet 5

And there you go. I hope you enjoyed this little trip into the vault.

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This entry was posted in Glimpses into Real Life, Pat Conroy, PAT CONROY MONTH!. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “I Never Became a Woodcutter and I Have Had as Little to Do with Wood as Was Humanly Possible”: Some PAT CONROY MONTH!!!! Silliness for Your Friday Morning, Brought to You By the Numbers 19 and 92 (by Bethany)

  1. Maria Caswell says:

    This is pretty awesome, although the words “In 1992 I was incapable of writing a story that did not include sexual assault” are fairly terrifying to me.

    • bedstrom says:

      There is a small chance that I was exaggerating. That said, I was very powerfully under the influence of John Irving (specifically The World According to Garp) and Pat Conroy (specifically The Prince of Tides) and for a while there all the stories/attempted novels I wrote involved rape plots. Having taught creative writing to 16-18 year-olds, I can say that sexual violence is a common topic among that age group, especially for girls. It supports the idea that we tend to write about what we fear.

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