Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘writing and teaching’

Interviews |

Tell Me the Landscape in Which You Live: An Interview with Jack Driscoll

Mary Stewart Atwell inaugerates a series of interviews with writers of rural fiction, undertaken in partnership with The Art of the Rural, by talking with Jack Driscoll. The two discuss his most recent collection, as well as the influence of place and weather on his fiction, how to “stay in the room,” and starting a story with the rhythm of the line.


Shop Talk |

Is it okay to say "Boring!" in workshop?

Author and teacher Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich says YES—and in fact, she hopes more people will say it. Writes Marzano-Lesnevich: [W]orkshop students tend to forget that they’re required to be there. I don’t mean in attendance, sitting around a large table, but rather in the page—in the world of the story. They’re required to read. They’re even required to finish the piece. This simple requirement changes everything about their relationship to what’s on the page. I’ve come to think that this gap is at least partially responsible for stories that do well in workshop sometimes floundering out there in the real world. […]


Shop Talk |

Under the Influence: A Parable of Courage

When I send out submissions, I’m easily spooked. After receiving my 4,575th “positive rejection”—i.e., “Not a good fit this time… send more”—I wonder if He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is mwa-ha-ha-ing behind the scenes: “Everyone Else is Going to Be Published. Die, Sucker.” Fortunately, better writers than me have endured the soul-sucking chill of the Dementor’s Kiss. My go-to writing mantra is a story about a Really Successful Writer (hereafter known as Harry Potter) told to me by my favorite writing mentor, whom I’ll call… Hermione Granger. Perhaps the story means so much because she believed in my work. When I can’t maintain faith […]


Shop Talk |

Why Teach Book Reviewing? or, How Penn State Graduate Students Become Responsible Literary Citizens: a guest post by Robin Becker

Editor’s note: As part of our focus on teaching this month, we’re delighted to present this guest post by Robin Becker. “To stimulate, to argue, to celebrate, to explain, to describe, to amuse, to popularize new ideas, to keep the conversation going—these are part of the job and a large part of the ideal to which any good book reviewer will always aspire.” –John Gross, New York Times Book Review Editor; editor of the special 100-year anniversary issue of the NY Times Book Review I designed the graduate seminar The Writer as Critic: Reviewing Contemporary Poetry, Fiction & Non-Fiction (English […]


Shop Talk |

Get Writing: Scene and Summary, Minimalist and Maximalist

I have a problem telling stories. Sometimes in my excitement it’s difficult to gauge how much detail a friend, or a reader, actually needs to know. Because while not all details are important to understanding the events, to me, often the details are the most interesting part. So, if I’m trying to describe how late the train was, so late that it made me miss my doctor’s appointment, instead I might end up talking more about the argument I eavesdropped on while waiting for that train, and the maroon, bedazzled pumps of the woman who was hissing at her partner. […]


Shop Talk |

Under the Influence… of Arnost Lustig

I was the worst writer in my MFA program my first year.  I know this thought isn’t unique, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t true.  My confidence was shot.  I was lost as a writer and so concerned with impressing my teachers and fellow students that I had abandoned whatever it was that made me worth accepting into the program in the first place. The following summer, I attended the Prague Summer Program, where Arnost Lustig was my workshop teacher.  We began each class with jokes.  We wrote a fable every day.  We read (after a fashion) Aristotle’s Poetics.  We discussed […]


Shop Talk |

Tastes Like Poetry

People tell me that I am a poetic writer. My response to this characterization varies from Thanks! to What does that mean? to Yes, my novel did sell like poetry to I want people to love my work in the way that poetry lovers love poetry, desperately and a bit dangerously, gripping the pistol under the pillow with one hand and the childhood stuffed rabbit with the other. But what, really, does this cross-genre accusation imply?  It’s meant as praise (I’m fairly certain), but wary praise, as if I’ve stumbled into a neighbor’s backyard party, where I’m welcome as long […]


Shop Talk |

A Brief History of an Ongoing Series: a guest post by Peter Turchi

Editor’s note: As part of our focus on teaching this month, we’re delighted to present this guest post by Peter Turchi. Nearly twenty years ago, when I became director of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, I moved into a small office that had been left neat and nearly empty by the previous director. Most of what he left behind were helpful files and books, but under the desk there was also a cardboard box filled with miscellaneous manuscripts, some stapled, some paper clipped, some typed, some covered with handwritten notes and corrections. Months passed before I asked […]



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