In the spirit of back to school season, I wrote a blog post for Ploughshares on rolling up your sleeves and learning by imitating the writers you admire. I’ve done the prompt on structure a couple of times now with Chekhov stories; one of the stories that came out of that exercise ended up in Propeller Magazine last December. As always, do let me know if you try out the prompts and if they’re helpful!
Back when I was slogging through the first draft of my first novel, I looked to visual art every morning as a prompt. I had a big stack of Dover art stickers that I would randomly choose from, and stick in my journal, and over time, I found that Kandinsky helped me write my protagonist. I have no idea why. But when you’re focusing on just getting words on the page, you do whatever works, right? Now I’m working on a couple projects dealing with art more deliberately, one of which I’ve written a bit about in these posts; the other is a bit too embryonic, but I’m excited about it and look forward to telling you more here when the time is right.
I normally think of August as a sleepy month for zoning out and wandering into enormous spider webs, but this year, in Seattle, there are quite a few things happening, all of which are free. Here’s where I’ll be if you’d like to join:
*Thursday, August 7, 6 pm: ekFRANTICS, a reading of literature about imaginary art, with David Lasky and Arlo Smith at the Greg Kucera Gallery. This is being put on by the local press Babel/Salvage and coincides with the Pioneer Square Art Walk, one of my favorite art events in town. I’m reading selections from my novel-in-progress, Paralegal, about a 25-year-old visual artist who takes a job as a paralegal just before the economic crisis of 2008.
*Thursday, August 14, 7 pm: My Body is a Book of Rules launch at Richard Hugo House. My dear friend Elissa Washuta launches her debut memoir, which I happily pre-ordered yesterday. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and celebrate with her.
*Thursday, August 21, 7 pm: The Furnace Presents Chelsea Werner Jatzke at Hollow Earth Radio. Corinne Manning and I are launching the third (!) season of our quarterly reading series featuring one writer, reading one entire story, “with vigor.” Chelsea‘s story is inspired by the Velvet Underground. Come see it live; it’s gonna be rad.
*Monday, August 25, 7 pm: Seattle Fiction Federation #1 at Richard Hugo House: Corinne is reading at this new series featuring fiction only. I’m excited for this new venue.
*Tuesday, August 26, 8 pm: Old Growth Northwest Reading & Opening Mic at the Jewel Box Theater: I’m a featured reader alongside Matthew Simmons and Melody Moberg. We’re all reading new work in response to the prompt “My first day on the job was much like my last,” plus something else of our choosing. Fun!
Then after a week in California for my best & oldest friend’s wedding, I’ve got one more very fun reading called Seattle Wage Slaves: Tales from the Grind, which features stories about work. I’m reading alongside Steve Barker, Sonora Jha, Michael Spence, and Wilson Diehl. That’s on Thursday, September 11 at 6:30 at Office Nomads. There will be spiked coffee and free donuts!
I’m excited to be offering a six-week fiction workshop at Richard Hugo House this fall. The class meets Wednesday nights 7-9 pm, October 29-December 10 (with no class November 26). Here’s the course description:
Many students of fiction say they learn more by workshopping others than when their own work is up for critique. If you have some drafts you don’t know what to do with and want to learn by giving others helpful feedback, this class is for you. We’ll touch on forming neutral questions and focus on helping the writer achieve his or her intentions. All students will workshop one story up to 5,000 words, getting feedback from their peers and the instructor. Time permitting, students may workshop a second story.
Scholarships are available and applications are due August 19. Member registration opens August 12 and general registration opens August 19. Hope to see you there!
I put together a whopping 24 summer-inspired writing prompts for the Ploughshares blog, which should keep you writing for the rest of the summer. Or at least for 300 or so minutes.
Just in time for those real long summer wanders I love, my seventh set of writing prompts for the Ploughshares blog tackles the wonders of walking and the importance of place, with wisdom from Luis Urrea. The uber-talented Melanie Masson was very generous in lending a few of her gorgeous landscape photographs to the post.
As I’m nearing the half-way point in this year of blogging about writing prompts, I’ll just put it out here: any requests for particular topics? So far I’ve covered portraits, eavesdropping, architecture, objects, dance, and music. I have other topics lined up, but I’m open to suggestions. Leave a comment here, tweet at me, or send me an email. And thanks!
I’m so honored to receive a 2014 Art Project grant from 4Culture for my novel Paralegal. Thank you, 4Culture, for all that you do in King County!
Stay tuned for more news on this / upcoming events. In the meantime, here is a short snippet about the novel from an interview I did on the Hugo House blog in March (skip down to “What are you currently working on?”). Hooray!
My sixth set of writing prompts for the Ploughshares blog dives into the vast territory of creative writing involving music, with wisdom from E.M. Forester, Milan Kundera, and Maya Sonenberg, and a short list of reading suggestions from Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” to a forthcoming novel on the inventor of the theremin.
In my fifth set of writing prompts for the Ploughshares blog, I consider dance as a launchpad for writing.