Creative Writing at SFCC: Come Join Our Fiction Classes!

There are spaces in Intermediate Fiction (English 225) at SFCC this fall. It’s aimed at focused development of craft and stories. Russ Whiting is the instructor—and I’ve asked him to talk about the class below.
There are still a very few spots left in my on-line fiction class (English 221)—take it from anywhere in the world! Focus is on flash fiction. Terry Wilson’s writing class (English 120), always a jump start, is also open to a few more folks.

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And feel free to ask me directly about our AA, certificate, and individual classes at:

Interview with Russ Whiting

What are the major one or two things students will learn in the class?

I hope that students take away many things from the class, but I suppose the main thing we learn is  that writing is a craft and a practice, and we get better at it each time we go to the well.  The course is built around practice and I see my job as a facilitator or coach to prompt each student’s best writing.  The second thing I try to impress upon students is that the story, whether short or long, is the most important element.  We can work out the details as we share and critique as a group.  We work on ideas, plot, description, dialogue, point of view, and all the necessary elements of the story, but the most important thing is just going for it.

Will you address longer forms of story like the novella or novel, or mostly short stories?

I like all the forms that stories take and it is up to the students to decide which forms suit them.  Often, a short story can be a chapter or an outline of a novel or novella, so everything is fair game.  I will definitely discuss the difference between them, what is selling in the market, what editors and agents are looking for, and how to build each form and what each includes.  I’ve lined up a New York agent to do a phone interview with the class and answer questions about how the literary world has changed and what really works for readers.

What is your opinion about the central challenge that writers face?

I grew up on a farm and worked on ranches, doing the toughest labor you can imagine, but writing is still the hardest job I’ve ever done.  As a newspaper editor and reporter, freelance journalist, and now fiction writer, I think that shaping words to tell a story, entertain, educate, and elicit a visceral response in the reader is the ultimate challenge.  We want it to “sound” beautiful, have characters that jump out of the pages and become real in our minds, and tell a story that somehow matters.  In order to do all these things, we have to sit and write, usually alone.  Overcoming the obstacle of our own inertia is probably the toughest wall we have to climb, but that’s what the class is for.  We learn that we are not alone, that there are specific things we can do to break the resistance, and ways to trick the muse into action.

Anything else?

Only to say that I really love teaching this class.  We become a community of artists.  I have students who have published novels that began in this class, script writers who are producing short films and entering them into national contests, and even one student who is now teaching creative writing at a college in Missouri and continuing to write her own novels. It always gives my writing a boost and I want to be able to do that for other writers.

Forthcoming in Santa Fe Literary Review–Poem by Joseph Delgado

war came. war went
by Joseph Delgado

war came. war went
like grandmother’s cigarette
smoke through the screen door
there she whittles bone and wood
praying for rain, praying for the snakes
to stop hissing her name from the
bunch grass or under the old chevy
that never got fixed
she whispers names long since forgotten milagros
dios santo nino san ysidro
she twists her tongue in psalms and
bends her back over the wash, sheets
sweat stained, a drop of blood
like a peach from the branch
hangs from the cloth, that
smell of camphor and gauze
that taste of piss in the air
pulling grit and sand from teeth
watching the wind waver through and over
grass, watch as the sunlight traces my
grandmother’s face, watch as she eyes the
ghosts sitting down by the acequeia, she tells me dont go mijo
dont go

What The Santa Fe Literary Review is Looking For: Slush Pile Roulette by Meg Tuite, Fiction Editor

Meg Tuite
The Santa Fe Literary Review
Fiction Editor for the 2011 issue
Slush Pile Roulette
The slush pile is where it all begins for the fiction editor. Now, of course, in order to get that pile accumulating a call must be sent out for submissions. Miriam Sagan put an ad in Poets & Writers for The Santa Fe Literary Review asking for poetry and flash fiction (stories up to 1000 words) with an edge. The deadline for the submission is Dec. 1, 2010. That was the official call, but there are many others. The fiction and poetry editors of the magazine have taken to the classrooms and the streets to rustle up writer’s to send in those pieces that have been sitting in their file cabinets and under their beds, drag them out, and get them shined up and spit-ready for submission.
            Most writers have heard of the slush pile. There’s even a literary magazine out of Cambridge titled The Slush Pile. They pack up hundreds of rejects from The Harvard Review in wheelbarrows or some such, and roll them back to their homes to rummage through them, searching for lost nuggets like sifting for gold.
            So, every two weeks, I meet with Miriam and pick up the accumulated manuscripts that have been mailed in and take them home to read. I think I can be safe in stating that almost all poetry and fiction editors are writers or have been at some point in the past. Why else would we do it? We love writers and we love to find those gems in the stacks that work for our particular magazine. We also know the joy and relief of deigning a story or poem finished. That means we have worked it over, for who knows how long, and either work-shopped it or sent it to those writers we trust to give us their final critique, until we feel ready to take that plunge and send it out. We send our babies forth into the unknown hands of editors across the map to usually wait for months, but sometimes just weeks due to online submission internet immediacy, in hopes of a communion with that stranger reading our poem or story who says, “YES, THIS IS IT,” and emails us back with a congratulations and an acceptance into their magazine.
            Most writers, who have been sending out multiple submissions for months or years are usually inundated with rejections. Believe me, a lot of the submissions that are rejected by twenty magazines or journals could one day be rejoiced and picked up by another magazine. A lot of the rejects are beauties that may not fit within the criteria of that particular journal they were sent to, so we can’t give up!
        The reward is always in the work, and we as writers know that, but let’s face it! We all want to be read. We yearn for an audience out there in the cosmos to feel something, anything, from those words we scrawl on the pages and string together into poetry and stories.
            I am excited to be a fiction editor for The Santa Fe Literary Review’s 2011 issue. I love and anticipate receiving your work! The deadline is Dec. 1, so please keep sending it in! We couldn’t have an incredible magazine without you!!!