Ross School - Senior Project 2006-07

Student: Tom Trunzo

Mentor: Shelby Raebeck

Consultant: Hope Harris

Domain: English

Product                            

Title: Ciao Barbara

Description:

Inspired by my great-aunt Barbara Landi I have created six creative short stories. There is no pervading theme that unifies each of the stories, as each one is different, and cannot adequately be summarized by me telling you the plot or the theme or such elements. I studied and was influenced by the works of Flannery O’Connor, John Cheever, Eudora Welty. I supplemented the project by drawing and writing entries, reflections, thoughts, ideas etc. in a process folio. I’ve completed my goal of creating six stories in total and have learned something in the process.

Details:

There's nothing extraordinary or remarkable about how I went about writing my stories. Often I worked for about four hours a day, and during this time took many breaks, was distracted by something (whether it be squirrels or my brother), and read a considerable amount of work by many writers. I found that I worked slowly, which helped none, and that I needed to write in order to know how the story was going to build.

Ciao Barbara

Abstract

For my senior project I wrote six short stories as part of a collection called Ciao Barbara. Originally, I had only the idea to write stories, but as time progressed and the project developed more throughly, I found that my great aunt's presence was stronger than I'd ever known it to be and, in the end, the collection was dedicated to and inspired by her.

I began this project last spring, when I drafted some preliminary ideas and met with Shelby, my mentor, in June. However, the only definite detail was that I was going to write; beyond this everything was hazy. I decided to relax during the summer, maybe draft a story or to, and do a good deal of reading. Out of my own volition, I ordered The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O'Connor and The Stories of John Cheever, but I never drafted any material during the summer.

When I got back to school in September, Shelby and I sat down immediately and hammered out a clear and more detailed senior project outline/proposal. He gave me a list of books to read, which included books on writing, contemporary works, and classic works. Following this I started reading some of these works and began writing.

My first turned out to be a disaster. It was nicely written, but was a terrible story. I hadn't written creative work since the ninth grade because I had a similar experience of writing something completely awful, and suddenly I was plagued and demoralized with fears of writing terrible stuff. However, I started forward inevitably and just kept writing. Luckily, Shelby never read the first story. My second work was better, but still not a story in my mind. It wasn't until the third work that I finally wrote a story.

By the Fourth story I began emulating Southern Gothic style. Southern Gothic style has exaggerated, flawed – often called grotesque – characters and, like its parent genre Gothic, has ironic, unusual, or supernatural dramatic action. Heavily influenced by Flannery O'Connor, I began to write in the southern Gothic genre. My fourth, fifth, and sixth stories were all written in this genre.

After finishing these stories, I went about the editing process with whatever little time I still had (being relatively new to creative writing had rendered me severely incapable of judging how much time each process of the project would take). I found that editing is a tedious, but rewarding process. I don't like criticism or seeing my stories hacked and slashed with red ink, but in the end, I realized it only made the stories better and that I'm grateful to everyone that helped me edit sufficiently. I believed, as did Shelby, that all of my stories had potential – some greater than others – that simply needed to be drawn out through editing.

Ultimately, after editing, I had overcome most of my obstacles: being new to creative fiction, pressing on despite distractions, understanding writing and the process, reading night, and the revisions process. However, my last challenge was the presentation and thankfully it went much better than I could have ever imagined or hoped it to have gone. I hope to continue creative writing in the future, to whatever degree it may be – though I have my doubts of it as a profession.

I'm pleased with the final product, each story is strong, has potential, and is not yet finished (I don't believe that art can never be completed). And, despite my initial fears of writing complete rubbish, I ended up with a good collection of stories.

Annotated Works Consulted

Arp, Thomas R. and Greg Johnson. Perrine's Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. New York: Harcourt College Publishers, 2002. This comprehensive collection of literature, which includes prose, short stories, poems, and plays, has a wide selection of classic-style writers. Among    them are Flannery O'Connor, John Cheever, Eudora Welty, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Wolfe, and Joyce Carol Oates.

Cheever, John. The Stories of John Cheever. New York: Vintage Books, May 2000. In this complete collection of short stories one finds some of John Cheever's best and most anthologized works, including “Goodbye, My Brother” and the “Swimmer”. Known as a master of storytelling and 'the Chekhov of the Suburbs', Cheever was a prominent and influential American author and his outstanding works are an excellent study and reference.

Dillard, Annie. The Writing Life. New York: HarperPerennial, 1990. A collection of short essays, Annie Dillard's The Writing Life provides vivid and lucid details, insights, and understandings about the literary process and artistry. Clear, simple, and direct, Dillard's writing avoids formal instruction             and offers a poetic and finely tuned sensibility concerning writing.

Gardner, John. The Art of Fiction. New York: Vintage Books, June 1991. An exhaustive but enriching body of work, John Gardner's The Art of Fiction is an exceptionally well-organized instruction in the craft of creative fiction. Divided into two parts, “Notes on Literary-Aesthetic Theory” and “Notes on The Fictional Process”, the book offers a vast wealth for understanding and writing creative fiction.

Malamud, Bernard. The Magic Barrel. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003. Sometimes called the 'Jewish Hawthorne,' Bernard Malamud was a brilliant and renowned writer, whose mastery of dramatic fiction, language, and detail make his works an invaluable reading to not only enjoy creative fiction but to understand it as well.

O'Connor, Flannery. The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1971. The complete collection of O'Connor's work is exemplary and monumental. As a writer who is often and simply described by Mr. Foard as “so freakin' good', O'Connor has produced some of the most remarkable and significant works in literary history, which, like most good fiction, are enjoyable to study, but even more enjoyable to read.

O'Connor, Flannery. Mystery and Manners. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2001. A collection of selected pieces of O'Connor's celebrated but  regrettably short career, Mystery and Manners is a resource of inestimable value for the writer. Chapters such as “Some aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction”, “The Nature and Aim of Fiction”, and “Writing Short Stories” offers extraordinary wisdom and insight.

Welty, Eudora. On Writing. New York: Modern Library, 2002. In this handbook for writers, Eudora Welty examines the elements of creative fiction with sharp and graceful clarity, wit, and brevity.

Community Member (Details)

My community member, Hope Harris, is a friend of my mother's side of the family and was someone I wasn't especially familiar with. It wasn't until the summer that I learned that she was a freelance writer (she works in real estate), who has written for several newspapers and runs a literary group down at Ashawagh Hall in Springs. After finishing “The Fruit of the Spirit” and the “Dragonfly”, I left copies of them at the real estate building where Hope works. Shortly after, she read the stories and told me she had typed up some feedback for me, which I gathered the next day. A few weeks later, I gave her a copy of my third story, “Red Runners”. Again, I received her criticisms and thoughts concerning the work, and immediately set about revising my work. Despite my resentment to criticism, her comments and observations were perceptive and only made my work stronger in the end. I invited her to my reading and presentation, however, she wasn't able to make either. Ultimately, she believed that the stories had potential and that I had a gift, and I'm pleased that I chose Hope for my community member.