Q and A
Hi Julia–I see there are spaces left in your intermediate fiction class at SFCC. I want to ask you a bit about the class.
Is there a particular focus in the class–plot, editing, etc.?
Julia: The class actually touches most of the bases when it comes to the craft of fiction. We work specifically on point of view, sense of place, character, dialogue, plot—the works. With that said, plot tends to be a major focus, as does the editing process. While there is certainly a fair amount of “free writing” in this class, it is geared toward writers who want more tools for the revision process, so that is a major focus.
What should a student expect in the class?
The class really emphasizes the craft side of writing fiction. We use Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction book, which takes a hard look at all the technical elements of fiction—from point of view to verb tenses—and provides what I think is an excellent survey of other writers’ views and experiences about these elements. The class has a free write almost every time we meet, and those are geared at practicing some of the techniques that we look at in the weekly readings. And then a major focus of the class is the workshop process. This is a chance for the writers to gather feedback and edits from their classmates and, of course, from me.
What is your favorite thing about teaching the class?
I really enjoy hearing the results of the free-writes—I’m always amazed at where they lead, and I love seeing solid revisions come out of these workshops. Many of the students who have been in this class in prior years now publish regularly and read in public regularly, and it’s exciting to see that fairly fast trajectory from classroom to active writing life.
What kind of reading?
The Burroway book also functions as a great anthology of short fiction, and we do a fair amount of reading and discussing these stories. I can never resist Ron Carlson’s “Keith,” which is both a great read and an excellent story to look at for craft. And then there’s Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welta, Stuart Dybek…this semester, I’m hoping to work in a story by Ann Beattie, since she’s in the Lannan line-up this spring, and also one of my favorites. Every other year I seem unable to resist including Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants. This might be an on year for that.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Although some people come to the class with manuscripts ready to workshop, this also is a class in which participants can develop material out of the in-class assignments if they are in the mood to start from scratch. We don’t read novels in the class, but students who are working on a novel certainly can workshop portions of it. Each student will workshop three pieces of writing of 8-10 pages (no more than 15) and submit one revision of each.
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