Tuesday, November 15, 2011

God Speaks in Compound Sentences

It's been more than one month since we've moved and we're still alive. The lights in our house run only on solar and summer's over--we've lost the sun.

I wake up and my eyes squint through the gray like a vole, like I live under the earth rather than on top of it. I want to write and I do not. It's as if I cannot see, and it's as if I can only feel my way through the day, through the dripping gray sky, through the dishes and the tugging of my children at my leg. I want to write about what this all feels like, but I do not.

This is the unedited product of a writing exercise from Priscilla Long's workshop "The Virtuoso Sentence" at the Skagit Valley Writer's League Conference last Saturday. Instructions: Take a subject you're working on and write about it using only compound sentences. That's two independent sentences joined by and, or, but. Three minutes. Go.

I found it quite difficult to flow within those constraints and felt quite pleased with myself. Until it was my turn to read it aloud and I got six words into my reading when she interrupted me. "That's a dependent clause," says Priscilla. Yes, "since we moved" is a dependent clause. (whaaaaa!?) Okay. Keep reading. Third sentence. Interrupted by, "That's a dependent clause." ("like"... "as if"). Okay, so, by definition, compound sentences can't have dependent clauses? Okay, so, apparently I use a lot of dependent clauses. Is that bad? Is it like having food hanging from your chin, like an extra appendage? Time to study craft - time to study sentence structures of the masters. Ach! I loved this 90 minute class of hers. I want more.

Here's a really cool fact: across all religions, god, in whatever form he/she/it/them manifests, speaks quite often in compound sentences. According to Priscilla this is because compound sentences carry a lot of authority. Who knew.