Monday, March 31, 2014

Cooking Eggs and Writing Fiction

I have a good friend in Los Angeles who always tells me to be strong in my relationships.  She says I can never let a man see my “yolk,” the uncooked me, the droopy, yellow sadness of a mess I can be after a breakup, a rejection, or just a bad day.  “They only want to see your shiny shell,” she’d affirm.

In Tayari Jones’s revision workshop, we learned that creating fiction is a lot like cooking an egg.  She often referred to that task, the crafting of the text, as more of an emotional undertaking than writer’s work.  The raw egg is your unadulterated sentiment that stems from real life experience, the pure grit of feeling, the essence of your opus.  In order to cook it up into a fictional piece, compose characters and breathe life into them, you must first boil the egg, therefore solidifying the emotion into something tangible, unbreakable, and palpable.

He saw my yolk!  Over easy, for sure!  I’d cry to my pal as she sat sunny side up listening to my trials and tribulations.  “Stay strong, no one wants runny eggs!”   One day, she actually made me eggs at her apartment, and I watched her patiently time out the cooking.  She dressed them with a bit of salt and pepper, sat them next to garlic spinach and fresh berries and served me the plate, hot and steaming.  The eggs were perfect - centers sturdy with just the right amount of yolk melting like lava when I pricked them with my fork.

Tayari Jones is right.  It’s not only about becoming a better writer, but also growing as a person.  If we serve a bunch of raw emotion on a plate, no one will want to finish the meal.  But, if we study practices of writing, sharpen our tools, become skilled in all areas of the craft, then we can lure readers in with artful appeal and the delicious tales we tell.

I don’t want to be fake though.  The right person should appreciate all my angst!  “Sure, sure babe,” she would say.  “The right one can handle the yolk, but you can’t let them see it all spilled out in the first act.”

Brittany Ackerman is a second year MFA in creative non-fiction.  She eats two hard boiled eggs for lunch every day to ensure stability in her writing and emotional life.  In regards to the recent Cheetos debate that has broken out on campus, she prefers the puff to the crunch.  

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