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“Skitter” on LitRagger

14 Oct

“Harush” by John Osgood, painted during the 24-hour art marathon at CoCA (text painted by yours truly).

I’m very happy that my story “Skitter,” first published in The Massachusetts Review and previously only available in print, is now online at LitRagger. I love their project of reprinting stories, poems, and essays so that they have an online presence. Here’s how “Skitter” begins:

Another tooth plinked into the tea glass and Harush blinked at it twice.

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Escalating Conflict

13 Oct

My latest blog post for Ploughshares offers suggestions for inserting and escalating conflict in fiction, with advice from Stephanie Kallos, Janet Burroway, and Merrill Feitell. Here’s how it starts:

In fiction, only trouble is interesting. For the conflict averse, instilling a story with juicy conflict may take some practice. Someone who has read many drafts of many of my short stories once dubbed me “Anca Did She Forget the Conflict Szilagyi”–a moniker that has become helpful as I work on second and third drafts of stories. As is often the case in learning something, I was aware, theoretically, that I had this problem. But how to proceed?

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Experiments in Perspective

29 Sep

My twelfth set of writing prompts for the Ploughshares blog explores writing from the perspective of characters unlike yourself, with insight from Jodi Angel, Chris Abani, and Keith Ridgeway’s great short story “Rothko Eggs”. Here’s how it begins:

A crucial lesson I learned early on in my attempts at writing fiction is that every character is you–and not you. Characters have parts of you inside of them because you wrote them. But they are still not you. Chris Abani once said in a workshop that readers will always wonder if your characters are you–even if your main character is a Chihuahua. There’s not much to do about this wondering except write the characters you want to write with complexity and empathy.

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Classy Talk: The Fiction Workshop at Richard Hugo House

18 Sep

Over on the Hugo House blog, my Classy Talk interview sheds a bit more light on my upcoming  fiction workshop. Take a look, sign up, and help me spread the word about it! Class meets Wednesday nights, 7-9 pm, starting October 29. I’m already excited about the story we’ll read on the first day,  a short-short by Angela Carter, which will be atmospheric and  fairy tale-ish and spooky.

Thoughtful Imitation

11 Sep

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!

Writing with Abstract Art

11 Aug

My latest blog post for Ploughshares offers writing prompts inspired by abstract art, with wisdom from Jeanette Winterson, and features a fantastic, electric illustration courtesy of Amy Frierson.

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.

Fall Fiction Workshop at Hugo House

27 Jul

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!

Summer-Inspired Writing Prompts

20 Jul

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.

Follow Your Nose

30 Jun
Mural at the entrance to the Kobe Ropeway. I imagine this scene smells like ice cream & heliotropes.

Mural at the entrance to the Kobe Ropeway. I imagine this scene smells like ice cream & heliotropes.

My eighth post for the Ploughshares blog digs deep into a somewhat-neglected sense, smell.  Take a whiff. (Did I miss any synonyms for smell in this post’s tags?)

Related:

The Kobe Ropeway

The High Line’s Debut

The Winter Garden

Walking to Write

6 Jun
Little donkey I found on a recent walk

Little donkey I found on a recent walk

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!

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