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
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...
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.
Beginnings of Grief" by Adam Hasslet
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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,
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
See you next year!!!!
The Drunken Boat
(Scroll down to bottom...the poets interviewed are on the left hand
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?
(This site may take awhile to load up, but it's worth the wait)
I'm giving you two exercises to choose from
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:
by Marianne Boruch
Why Sleep by
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.
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?
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.