Archive | January, 2012

Looking & Seeing: Generating Prose with Paintings

22 Jan

I’m teaching a one-day class at the Hugo House on Saturday, February 11 from 1-5 pm. The class, Looking & Seeing: Generating Prose with Paintings, will use paintings as prompts for fresh writing.

Here’s the description from the Hugo House website: We’ll mine a range of paintings (representational, surreal, abstract, etc.) to unearth new prose projects or add depth and breadth to works in progress. Rather than focusing solely on ekphrastic writing, making the writing an interpretation of a specific work of art, we’ll use visual art as prompts. These prompts will approach pieces from different angles, focusing on character, story and landscape (both internal and external). We’ll also experiment with style. To help with the creative percolation, we’ll take a look at a range of short published works that have been inspired by visual art. Students will write fresh material (from one to four pieces) and leave class with the tools to keep going.

This is something I’ve been doing with my own writing for years now, both for short stories and for the novel I’m finishing up, so I’m excited to unpack the process for others and see how they use it.  When I taught fiction at the University of Washington, bringing visual art into the classroom (or the class to visual art) was always great fun.  More fun will be had on February 11 and you can sign up for the class right here. Hope to see you then!

Come In and Cover Me

10 Jan

In the third grade,  I wanted to be an archaeologist. You know, the whole Indiana Jones shtick: I’d climb along the side of my bunk bed, scaling vertical rock walls and absconding with golden statues of squat monster-gods. My friend Jane, who was only allowed to watch PBS but somehow watched Twin Peaks on the sly, had us don imaginary lab coats and examine jewels and bones.  Later, I actually minored in archaeology in college and learned that “shoats” can be either sheep or goat (their skeletons are the same). Gin Philips’s novel, Come in and Cover Me, which I’ve reviewed over at Ploughshares, takes on archaeology from a different angle, one admittedly more mature and emotionally nuanced than my juvenile forays into the field, and with some humor along the way.

Overheard in the Ladies Room at Pacific Place

2 Jan

Over the holidays, while waiting for the restroom, I overheard this exchange and have been so enraptured by it (read to the end to feel the rapture) that I’m convinced at least one person, if not multiple, could write a short story, if not a novel, from this tender seedling. Please do share if you do!

“Mommy, it’s not coming out.”

“Well,” says the mother, from a neighboring stall, “you don’t want to eat your fruits and veggies. That’s what happens when you don’t eat your fruits and veggies.” Time passes. “Are you ready? Do you want my help?”


The mother flushes, exits her stall. “Get out,” she says, “so I can come in.” A big brother, about seven or eight but large for his age, comes out, smirking. A gold earring, maybe it’s a stick-on, gleams in one of his lobes. The mother enters the stall. Clucks her tongue. “Why isn’t there a toilet seat cover?” She sighs, loudly.

“Mommy,” the big brother says, face near the closing door, eyes half-closed and dreamy, “I love you.”

If you liked that, here’s another inter-generational overheard, in Florence:

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