Add a chunk of pork shoulder, spice it, seal it in water, and voilà, you’ve got yourself some SPAM, the processed luncheon meat. The recipe for my latest published essay was full immersion in my first MFA residency, a few months of marinade in the lessons my instruction provided, a workshop at the writing center where I teach, and finally a stir by a talented writer I’ve come to know through social media.
I blogged the other day about a graduating Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing student who has learned how to turn her funny stories into literary essays. Well, “The Truth About Spam” is an example of just that.
When I arrived at my first VCFA residency last summer, I panicked when at the first student reading I heard how gripping the prose was. I had brought a piece I thought was the type of thing one reads at a literary reading, a ponderous essay full of references to Socrates and truth. I knew it would bomb.
So that night, in a creative fever, I wrote an entirely new piece, a silly little piece about my visit to the Hormel Spam Museum on my 2010 road trip. It was a hit. Everyone laughed at the right places. But I knew, as I listened to others’ readings, that there wasn’t much there there. I had to go deeper. Every now and then, I’d pick up the short work and tweak it. At one point I had a revised version workshopped in an essay class at The Writer’s Center I took between VCFA semesters. And this is the result.
The final stir came from Judy Clement Wall, a talented literary writer who I am connected with via Twitter. I complimented her on her short piece when it was published on clamp, and she recommended I submit there. I hadn’t known what to do with “Spam” yet, but the journal’s “space for thought” tagline seemed a good fit for a piece that attempts to braid “fake” meat with the theme of authenticity.
Thank you VCFA, The Writer’s Center, and Judy Clement Wall!
I welcome comments (as always) below, but let’s send some love to clamp as well via comments there, if you so choose. Thanks!