Experiments in Revision, Final Reflections
by Niki Selken
You know how it feels to write or make a first draft of something, then rework it until it shines like the top of Chrysler Building? You know how you kind of want to burn that first draft, so that no one will ever know the embarrassing wreckage of over-obvious, trite, and self-indulgent ideas you have put down to the page only to be edited out? Well imagine that that first draft gets published online for everyone to read. That’s the foundation of The Splinter Generation’s Experiments in Revision series. Seeing as no one else was self-effacing and brave enough to undergo this grueling process they chose me!
The Experiment’s in Revision process, was kind of like an online poetry workshop or and editorial process, where I learned something. Mostly I have done blogging with an editor and play-writing with a dramatist or director guiding the process. It was a totally new experience to actually work toward styles of poetry and use my not-so-awesome first draft poem as the source material. I remember when I worked for a publisher doing their digital publishing and having to go through drafts of revisions where a professional editor and marked up my page with red; I felt pretty bad about my grammar and writing. That was NOT what happened with Lisa at Splinter Generation. She introduced me to new styles of poetry and gently guided me toward a final piece that I consider to be a thoughtful culmination of all the poems I wrote and well written to boot.
I think they chose my piece in the first place because I had a poem with a lot of feeling and raw emotion. It was interesting to learn how, when writing semi-autobiographically as you do in poetry, it’s OK to add on and embellish memories with ponderings, half truths, and associated images. I think that process of moving from the memory as it stands to the memory as imagined in a poem is a long journey. Don’t get me wrong, if you come to see a fictional play I have written, half of it sounds like a dream and the other half, a poem. Somehow though, I have never understood that my own memories and feelings could be fodder for just as open and whimsical a process that asks the writer to step outside of the memory/feeling and craft it into something else. The art of crafting feelings into art is what I have learned from Experiments in Revision.
Niki Selken, M.F.A., is an experimental theater maker and tech and design consultant. She has performed and/or worked with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, The San Jose Stage Company, The Erika Shuch Performance Project at the Yerba Buena Center for Performing Arts, San Francisco Fringe Festival, the Women on the Way Festival and with SXSW Winner Nick Fox-Gieg. In 2007 Niki founded the theater company, Ko Labs, to present original plays: The Endless Frontier, the Pride and Prejudice Project, and The Gods of San Francisco. When not performing she DJs as Nikistyxx, works at her Tech company—Big Treehouse—and blogs for shamonica.com.