Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Reading list for Form and Technique (English 640) Fall2007

Davis, Amanda, Wonder When You’ll Miss Me, Harper Perennial 0060534265

Almond, Steve, Candy Freak, Harcourt 0156032937

Satrapi, Marjane, Persepolis, Pantheon 037571457X

Sedaris, David, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Little Brown 0316010790

Haddon, Mark, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Knopf 1400032717

Anderson, Laurie Halse, Speak, Penguin 014131088x

Martone, Michael, ed, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction,
Scribner 0684857960

Kundera, Milan, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Harper Perennial 0060932147

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Fall 2007 Graduate Fiction Workshop will operate differently from the traditional model. It does not focus on story as final product; you do not bring in a "finished" draft to find out whether or not it "works." Instead, this course uses the discussion of short, "unfinished" anecdotal pieces to explore a story's possibilities.

The class stresses close, careful reading (as a group we'll compile a class text) but it also requires intensive writing. During the first half of the class, you'll write a thousand words a day, five days a week. Topics for writing will come out of prompts; each writer will be responsible for providing a week's worth of prompts.Every two weeks, we'll assemble a packet of these exercises. You should turn in the prompt you find most dynamic or intriguing, the one you're most excited about pushing further. We'll discuss your thousand word piece with an emphasis on craft, but also with the intention of locating the material's potential. Questions for discussion may include What is this piece's emotional center? What seems to be at stake? What are the possibilities for metaphor? For conflict? Based on what's here, who is the narrator?

During the second half of the course, we'll work toward finding connections between and among various prompts as a way to juxtapose unexpected images, build characters and theme, find structures, and develop plots.

This workshop is appropriate for short story writers who'd like to generate new ideas for stories, develop stories-in-progress, or experiment with flash fiction. It's also appropriate for novelists interested in using the prompts as a way to develop their characters, themes, or plot points. Poets and nonfiction writers interested in writing fiction are more than welcome.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Granta offers up their list of the Best Young American Novelists

They define "young" as under 35, but last time they did this "young" was under 40. Young keeps getting younger, I guess, which makes me nervous because I'm not.

Granta also defines "novelist" differently than I might because some of the writers on their list haven't written novels (though they may be working on novels-in-progress.) I don't know yet what I think about this. I think it's good that short story writers aren't excluded from receiving recognition from a prestigious publication, but then I also think stories aren't novels. Story and novel are different, not the same at all. When my story collection came out, nothing irritated me more than hearing someone ask was I working on a novel, when would I have a novel out. I don't think of story as practice for novel; I think if anything, story is closer to poem. But mostly, I think story is its own kind of art.

I've been reading this Truman Capote biography. When his work first began to appear in the New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly during the 1940's and 50's, the public read stories and talked about stories the way they watch and talk about movies today. It's hard to imagine.

Click here for the Granta list.
I agree with much of what this guy has to say about teaching craft and the MFA. Read the interview.