Our attention is ever more fragmented, pulled this way and that by one thing and another. Times are tough, in every way imaginable. And yet, as the world rolls on, growing ever hotter and ever more dominated by machines and screens, it seems that humans still have a deep-seated need to sit around a fire, metaphorical or actual, and tell stories.
In this course, I hope to guide you to doing that more skillfully, in your own voice, whatever that voice may be growing into. While my writing falls squarely into the Western realist tradition, I realize that that is not everyone’s goal (though those writing SF, fantasy or genre work would be advised to look elsewhere—I’m just not comfortable guiding writers in those areas). To the best of my ability, I will try to help you make your story it wants to be, not the story I want it to be.
You will spend a significant amount of time in this class reading and workshopping one another’s work in progress. There will sometimes be in-class exercises and you are expected to come to class prepared to comment thoughtfully on the work of fellow students. I also firmly believe that a person who doesn’t read ambitious, skillful fiction along with the occasional craft text has no business calling him or herself a writer. So we will be reading a number of published short stories, some craft essays, and using Janet Burroway’s “Writing Fiction,” not as an iron-clad formula, but as useful resources to help you get to where you want to go.
I also hope that we’ll have some fun. Writing stories is (or should be, at least sometimes) a joyous answer to a heartfelt need. If ya gotta write, you might as well enjoy the journey—if not every step, than at least a few of them.