Robert Glick to Discuss ‘Opportunity Spaces’ as Ways to Expand Writing


Robert Glick no longer collects barf bags.

In a 2011 interview with Jacquelyn Barnes for the travel website Wanderlust and Lipstick, Glick traced the beginning of his hobby to his move in 1999 to Amsterdam, a city from which he took several different international airlines to visit new friends and discovered a new world overflowing with the colorful, cheeky receptacles. At the time, Glick guessed he had around 100 different (unused) barf bags, which he used to decorate rooms in his house.

Now, though, the author does not have a space to display his collection, and most airline companies have ceased branding their barf bags. Still, Glick acknowledged that the opportunities for a writing project based on his barf bags are many.

“There’s probably something to be said about airplanes, mortality, travel, colonialism and how people deal with planes, but that’s for the future,” he said.

For now, Glick awaits the publication of Two Californias, his first book of stories; continues to write and revise his novel-in-progress The Paradox of Wonder Woman’s Airplane; and teaches creative writing and digital literature at Rochester Institute of Technology.

As Week Four’s prose writer-in-residence at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center — he replaced Debra Magpie Earling, who had to cancel her time at Chautauqua for health reasons — Glick taught a week-long workshop titled “Opportunity Spaces: Pushing a Story’s Flat Spots Toward Longer Work.” His Brown Bag lecture, “Opportunity Spaces: The Poetry of the Tale,” will address these neglected opportunities as points of possible expansion. Glick will give this short craft talk at 12:15 p.m. today, July 19, on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

It’s all about becoming “recursively self aware” of what is happening in one’s work, Glick said, so writers can “exploit things and have more control of them.” He likened an opportunity space — the place where a writer may extract the messiest parts of a manuscript — to pizza.

“It’s like when you ask a friend, ‘What do you want to eat?’ and they say, “I don’t care,’ ” Glick said. “If the friend instead said, ‘pizza,’ you have something to work with. You can get to the gutty space.”

Revision is a crucial part of Glick’s writing process, a near-daily ritual that forces him to take a step back and consider new associations between words. He tries to regularly write in the mornings and to not worry himself with distinctions like “good” and “bad” days.

“The startup costs for getting back to (writing) are just too high,” he said. “I can’t hold it in my head all at once.”

Glick looks to Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost and Maggie Nelson’s Bluets as literary examples of works that “blow things up” by “exploring ways you can travel from one concept to another.”

“It’s not just about what a word means, but how it looks,” Glick said. “What does it connect to linguistically? What does is connect to historically?”

Michael  Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter, a fragmented, jazz-inspired novel set in New Orleans is, for Glick, a testament to the power of rewriting and constant editing. He notes that on the book’s second page, Ondaatje references Gravier Street, a detail Glick connects to the linguistically similar words “grave” and “engraving” — both themes Ondaatje develops throughout the book. Ondaatje’s choice of “Gravier Street,” of all the roads in New Orleans, is an opportunity space that can help expand a story into a collection or a novel. 

“You have the option to go in deeper,” Glick said. “The detail allows you other hooks to work with. You can bring out your text so much more strongly if you have stuff to work with, even things as simple as a name of a part to something. It has sound associations; it has meaning associations. It looks like something.”
Tags : literary arts

The author Amy Guay

Hailing from coastal Sarasota, Florida, and Nantucket, Massachusetts, Amy Guay is excited to live near yet another significant body of water while she spends her summer as the Daily’s literary arts reporter. A fresh Georgetown University graduate, Amy has an extensive background in absorbing free or discounted art and then writing about it. Her favorite book is Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.