Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘genre fiction’

Essays |

Gargoyles in the Classroom: Some Reflections on Popular Fiction in the Undergraduate Creative Writing Workshop

Back in the 90’s, I was teaching a multi-genre creative writing class at Cape Fear Community College, a name I am not making up. There were almost thirty students, with a wide variety of backgrounds, interests, and abilities. At the time, inexperienced, I was still letting folks workshop whatever they wanted, without any restraints on content or pre-screening by me. I was more giddy cheerleader than true teacher, with vague hopes of leaping onto my desk, Robin-Williams like, and inspiring bemusement and admiration from my young students. All this led to some unusual situations, like the young man who plagiarized […]


Shop Talk |

Thoughts From the Hopwood Room: Karen Russell on Earning Your Endings

Editor’s Note: The Hopwood Room Roundtable is a weekly event in which visiting writers of the Helen Zell MFA Program in Creative Writing discuss their work and the writing life with the University of Michigan’s student body, faculty, and the local literary community. Inside the Hopwood Room, friends and colleagues caught up over coffee and cookies, discussing avalanche survival tactics and personal rules about never living in alligator-populated states, awaiting the main event: an in-the-flesh Genius. When Karen Russell—novelist, short story writer, MacArthur Genius Fellow, and probably the most easy-to-be-around and gracious person you’ll ever encounter—entered the room, which was […]


Shop Talk |

Ode to the Bromance

Friends say they saw our bromance bloom. I took them aside and said, admiringly, “that Nick Ostdick is alright.” Nick took them aside and said, wistfully, “Shawn seems like a cool dude.” There was a beer here, a beer there, always with chaperones. Then mano-a-mano happy hours that spilled into dinners that spilled into the manliest of frozen desserts that spilled into more happy hours. His fiancé called me his man-wife and warned me not to take him away. I was a groomsman in his wedding; he listened to my unnecessary dating life bemoanings. When I left for a semester […]


Reviews |

The Magician King, by Lev Grossman

Little jaunt to the underworld? Don’t forget your passport. The second installment in Lev Grossman’s Fillory series, The Magician King, continues to play with realist fantasy and the right amount of irony to meld the two. Quentin and his pals provide a sly and subversive fairy tale for grown-ups, with a caution: be careful what you wish for. You might get it.


Shop Talk |

Vampires and zombies and literature, oh my…

A while back, we noted that vampire lit had–well, gone legit. (If you can major in it in college, it’s legit.) But it’s not just vampires. All kinds of characters previously relegated to genre writing–zombies, werewolves, and monsters galore–have migrated into mainstream literature. Can we blame this on Twilight, or is something bigger at work here? Harldy, says Joe Fassler in The Atlantic, offering several reasons “literary” fiction has turned towards genre: There was a time in recent memory when writers took their cues primarily from the literary figures that came before them. But in 2011, our literary, media, and […]


Shop Talk |

Under the Influence… of Fred Chappell

North Carolina’s esteemed novelist, short story writer, teacher, and former poet laureate Fred Chappell came along at a critical moment in my writing life: when I was starting to hear voices. Trained as a journalist but always identifying as a writer, I resumed a childhood poetry habit after it had been on hiatus during college. I began writing short stories as well in the early ’80s, and then started a novel. As I began to take myself (semi)-seriously as a writer, I started to attend conferences and workshops. That’s when the voices began. Don’t mix genres, the experts warned. Decide […]



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