Visiting Author Highlights: Digging Into Dialogue with Catherine Brady
By Lori DeBoer, BWW Director
“Dialogue isn’t what characters say to each other, it’s what they do to each other.”
That was one of the takeaways from the dialogue workshop we had in June with award-winning author Catherine Brady. Catherine was visiting the Boulder Writers’ Workshop from San Diego, where she teaches in the MFA program at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of three short story collections, including Curled in the Bed of Love, winner of the 2002 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and The Mechanics of Falling, winner of the 2010 Northern California Book Award for Fiction.
A small group of dedicated writers took advantage of Catherine’s visit, digging into dialogue in her writing workshop. We looked at Raymond Carver’s short story, Careful, in which an alcoholic man with ear problems is visited by his estranged wife, Inez. Through a careful reading of the work, Catherine demonstrated how dialogue functions to reveal character.
“Dialogue is the crackly part of the narrative: it moves really fast, it’s the most direct representation of character we have, so it can be very exciting,” said Catherine. “Dialogue is interesting to the degree that it reveals things about character, beyond what the character is willing to acknowledge.”
Workshop participants also had a chance to talk with Catherine and the group about some of the things they liked about dialogue and some of the challenges they faced.
The workshop participants were positive about the experience. Craig Yager noted: “The intimate size of our group allowed for a lot of individual responses and interaction. The discussion of techniques for working with dialogue was helpful because each participant had helpful questions or situations within his or her own writing as applications. The exercises, in addition to the main focus on Raymond Carver’s work “Careful,” more than made the cost of the workshop worth its weight,” said Craig Yager.
Judy Rose also felt the workshop was helpful. “It was also informative to have the chance to talk about the staging of dialogue, and her using of the concept of ‘stagecraft,’ props, and the white space in dialogue,” she said.
On Monday evening, Catherine gave a reading of her work at the Villas at the Atrium in Boulder, a retirement community, which was open to the public. The reading was attended by several residents at the Villas, as well as BWW members.