Read "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor and start your own exercise where crime or the threat of crime plays a role. I'm concerned about tension here and your ability to build it. Good luck!

Read "The Reception" by Nathan Hill and begin your own story with an event (a party, a funeral, a doctor's waiting room, a restaurant, etc...) and tell us what's there, see the place, the people in your mind, the dialogue, what's being said, what's not being said, etc... Good luck!

Read Adam's incredible story. Begin a writing exercise that incorporates violence somehow, whether it be a character's past, his or her desires, or what he or she has witnessed, what was done to him or her or what he found himself doing...Don't give us "excuses" or "reasons"—try just having your character behave in this bad world of ours.
"The Beginnings of Grief" by Adam Hasslet

Read these two stories. Like Strogov and Banks, take two unlikely characters and put them in an intimate situation.
"Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story" by Russell Banks
"Fatso" by Leelila Strogov

Check out The Barcelona Review. Read 2-3 stories from the site and let one of them (or all of them) inspire you. Take an image, a situation, a character or setting, and let that be your inspiration. Tweak it so that it's unrecognizable and becomes completely your own.

Find a secret on this site and use that secret for the first line of your exercise. Write for at least 15 minutes without stopping.

First Off
Think about beginnings, those first sentences from the stories or essays that we love, and think about your own first sentences. Are they vivid? Do they make a reader want to read on? Does every sentence that follows a first sentence have a responsibility to be as good as that first one? Go to the Zoetrope archives and read several first paragraphs (at least 10) and write your own five first sentences. Bring those to class on the April 10th.

Read this story from the Missouri Review and start your own story/essay/poem with a bold declaration about the body (your body, your narrator's body or a body your narrator knows well, your speaker's body or a body your speaker knows well. Continue writing for thirty minutes (at least) giving yourself freedom to bounce around, to make poetic leaps--in other words, don't worry about if one bit of narrative or one paragraph connects to another bit of narrative or paragraph while you're doing this first draft. Be bold, imaginative, and poetic. Good luck!

Try to find an author on this list that you're already familiar with or familiarize yourself with someone new and read his or her interview. On Sunday August 15th bring in a piece of the interview, a comment you think is particularly useful or illuminating or just funny, and share it with the group. Read something (fiction or nonfiction) that the writer you pick has written and use it as inspiration for your own exercise this week.

Read "Don't Call it Christmas" by Ryan Harty and notice the dialogue. Do you think the story is dialogue heavy? Write your own piece using more dialogue than you usually use in a story.

Read "The Talking Cure" by Frederick Busch and afterwards begin your own piece with a main character who discovers something, finds out about something he or she isn't supposed to find out about. Think about secrets--how they are kept and divulged, and how sometimes we become the new keepers of those secrets. Bring in the first paragraph of this one on Sunday. Good luck!

Go to the Nerve.com website and check out the Shame Issue. Scroll down and read a story or two and also check out Tobin Levy's essay The P Word. Think about Shame and think about Sex and start your own piece of fiction, nonfiction, or a poem.

From The Story Behind the Story, read Joan Silber's story "My Shape" on pg. 146 and the essay that follows. Think about what she talks about on pg. 164 "Long Times in Short Stories". Attempt a story or poem that chronicles time in the way that Silber does it here.

Read Russell Banks' short story Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story and begin your own piece about an unlikely pair. Notice how Banks' builds tension in the story, patiently, scene by scene. Try that. Don't just "introduce" your characters but have them meet up again, either at the same place or elsewhere. Notice how this alone moves your story or poem forward.

Please take those five sentences from last week's exercise and turn them into five paragraphs (or first stanzas). Pick the paragraph you like the best and bring it to Sunday's workshop. Also, read Antonya Nelson's story in the text (pg 19) and her short essay that follows. Think about who, if anyone, "owns" a story and when it's okay or not okay to "steal" that story and make it your own. Is it all in the execution or are there particular situations that make you feel possessive? And finally, bring the class a gift on Sunday: a story (or, more likely, a situation) that you've been unable to write for whatever reason and feel okay about "giving away" or a first sentence (maybe one out of the ten you did last week) that you're willing to give away.

In The Story Behind the Story, read Stephen Dobyns' "Part of the Story" on page 225, as well as the essay that follows. Write 10 sentences of your own and bring in your top 5 sentences (the ones that you like the most).

The 39 Steps: A Primer on Story Writing

Read the following story and take notice of the setting: a mental hospital. Where have you been (or visited) that might make an interesting setting for a story? Take us to a "new place" and make us see and feel the place (in addition to the characters, of course). Do this by providing the necessary details here, the necessary proof to make us believe the way the brilliant and talented Charles D. makes us believe in Screenwriter! Have a good, productive week.

Screenwriter by Charles D'Ambrosio

Process and Product
When we return to class on Jan. 4th, please have an author or poet picked out (from one of the sites below or your own source) and be ready to discuss an interview with that writer. I don't expect you to read everthing he or she has written, obviously, but would love for you to discover how one particular writer's interview relates in some concrete way to his or her writing. I'd prefer this writer to be someone whose work is new to you. After familiarizing yourself with particular stories or poems, use that work as inspiration. Find something dealing with either technique or theme or both and go from there.

See you next year!!!!

Identity Theory
The Drunken Boat
(Scroll down to bottom...the poets interviewed are on the left hand side)

Visit one or more of these photography websites and find a photo that you can use as inspiration for a story or poem. Let the reader see what you see--both what's currently happening and also the pre-story or post-story there. What's the situation? Where's the drama? And of course, what's literarlly in the photo? What things and/or nouns make up this particular world?

DoubleTake Photography Archive
Robert Specter
Chris Strong (This site may take awhile to load up, but it's worth the wait)

I'm giving you two exercises to choose from here:

1) The Witness: Have your narrator or speaker look closely at a place or situation. Let the reader see and/or hear what your speaker or narrator sees. Try to connect what he or she sees and hears with something emotional and personal to the narrator. What does his or her observation of the world say about the individual doing the witnessing? Read the following poems:

Lament by Marianne Boruch
Why Sleep by Cate Marvin
Deer Hit by Jon Loomis


Play With Time: Read the story below and notice the writer's specificity with time, his going back and forth between a current situation, recent experience and not so recent experience--the way each of these is woven throughout. Notice his attention to balance and his willingness to simply let the episodes stand near each other and do their work without overtly pulling them together. Also notice the circular shape to the piece--how he starts with one situation and returns to it at the end, revealing the "whole story" at that point. Try something akin to this.

Match End by Marc DuBois

2nd Exercise and Reading: Julie Orringer's "Note To Sixth Grade Self"

Start a story or poem as a "note" to former self or future self or even a "note" to someone else entirely.

Class hasn't even started and here I am giving you your first reading assignment and writing exercise. By November 9th, please read Nani Power's story below, notice how she moves the story forward while at the same time weaving in character background/history and how these things collide and/or move together throughout the story. Also, notice Power's ability to create fully developed scenes with fresh language. And finally, what do you think of her numbering the sections of the story? Is the piece clear? Psychologically accurate? Compelling?

Exercise: Write a piece where two unlikely characters hook up, get together, have a discussion or a meeting or a cup of coffee or, as in Nani Power's story, a sexual encounter.

I will not be collecting exercises this time around, but do expect you to do them. Please be prepared to talk about the reading material and your experience with the writing exercise itself, which we will do if class time permits.