Monday, December 21, 2015

New Course: Year of Your Novel at Hudson Valley Writers' Center

1/15/16 Update: This course is underway! Join us for Session II, March 4 to April 15. Click here for more info.

I'm so excited to be teaching 2016's Year of Your Novel course at the Hudson Valley Writers' Center! Consecutive six-week sessions will span the year. You can sign up for all or some, depending on your needs and whims. This is for writers at any stage who are committed to creating a draft of a novel by the end of 2016. More info here: The Year of Your Novel.



Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Librarian




Friday, November 20, 2015

"Why I Kill": On Having an Idea for an Article and Not Writing It


This is a story about an article I wanted to write, but never did. One titled “Why I Kill.”

When I lived in Vermont, my husband and I went in with some neighbors to raise and slaughter a hundred Thanksgiving turkeys. I had been vegetarian since I was a child, because I loved animals, but now, as an adult, I wanted to find out if humane meat was possible. I planned to write the article after we were done, explaining why I chose to kill the animals I ate.

All my life, when I have thought about meat, I've been very aware that it entails the death of a sentient being. That torn flesh and guts come with this. In that sense, I had always lived intimately with the gory reality of meat, so it didn't seem like such a huge step to become physically involved with it. Also, I'm constitutionally not squeamish; blood has never bothered me. So I knew I could do it. Some meat eaters who were my partners in this venture laughed, saying I'd run crying out of the room at slaughter time. (In reality, when that night came it was not me but one of them—new to farming and apparently new to the idea of all it entails—who couldn't take it and had to leave.)

On many small farms that advertise humane meat, at slaughter time, turkeys are stuffed upside down into "kill cones," with their heads sticking out the bottom, so they're restrained while their throats are slit. This is necessary because otherwise they flap their wings and struggle powerfully as they feel life leaving them. It takes a while. Of particular concern to farmers is that this wing-flapping can leave unsightly bruises on the carcass. 

We didn't have kill cones, and had planned to restrain the turkeys with burlap sacks, but the birds were so strong that the sacks ripped immediately. So it became my job to wrap my arms around their bodies and keep them still as they hung upside down, bleeding out.

In a way I wish I could say that, like the squeamish meat-eater, I felt disgusted, or cried afterwards, thinking about what the birds must have been feeling. But I didn't. I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started. Maybe my crime was worse for that.

It's not that it didn't affect me. At the time, my infant son weighed about as much the turkeys (and, like them, was a few months old), and at night, lying next to him, I woke several times with a jolt, out of half-dreams that I had accidentally put him into the oven instead of a turkey. There was no guilt or sadness for the turkeys attached to these half-dreams, just fear for my son. There was the shock of wrongness too, of having crossed a line, broken a taboo, crossed out of the realm of the okay into some terrible other place.

But I was not in that terrible other place in reality. My son stayed out of the oven. I only killed the creatures who were supposed to be killed.

A few days later, when I got my hair cut, the hairdresser in our tiny rural town asked how it had been, slaughtering all those turkeys. "It really wasn't that bad," I told her. She laughed and said, "Yeah, bet you didn't feel a thing." I had the feeling it was an old, familiar joke to her. We lived among hunters and farmers; her husband hunted, and was teaching their son to do it. I laughed too, recognizing the absurdity, but, as with the oven dreams, not feeling any real sense of guilt or sadness over it. I certainly wasn't asked to feel those things by anyone I met. Most people gave us the sense we'd done something good in the world, had come down on the side of morality: raising the turkeys in big pastures, where they tussled over crab apples, socialized, enjoyed the sun. We all agreed factory farming was bad, and our aim had been to do something different, better and kinder.

I thought afterwards that we had cause to feel good about it. We'd gone through with what we planned. None of the messy business of butchering had even bothered me: plucking feathers, pulling out guts, cutting up body parts. I almost wondered, as I did it, if I were deficient in some way, so little did it disturb me.

But one thing did stay with me. As I played the part of a kill cone, my arms wrapped around those big bodies, holding the powerful wings closed as the warm, gentle birds struggled against death (what's the point of struggling when your throat is slit all the way across and all your blood is pouring down in two jets over your face to the ground? the futility of this struck me), I felt how how very much they did not want to let go of life.

When your body is pressed against another body, it leaves something with you. I felt how their lives were sacred, and we were taking them away.

At the time, it seemed a good thing that I had felt this. To have felt it was to have earned the meat I ate that Thanksgiving--after not eating any meat at all for over 25 years. I had honored the birds by feeling it. By helping to raise them and by experiencing their death along with them.

I didn't become vegan or even vegetarian again immediately after that, although I decided I would only eat animals I myself had raised. I killed several chickens over the next few months. But I lost the desire to write the article. I didn't want to keep killing. Over the next few years, the experience with the turkeys continued to work its way deeper into my soul.

I could kill. I had done it. I could close myself off to the horror of the blood and guts—that part wasn't even hard for me. But I had recognized and felt, next to my body, on my skin, inside myself, in some blunt way, the sacredness of life.

Having felt the birds struggle, I had to recognize that taking a life is a big deal. Dying is a big deal. Yes, even for animals—as we all know if we have been with a beloved dog or cat at their deathbed. It sounds so simple as hardly to be worth saying. And it is. But I knew it then, in a way I hadn't before. Or maybe I was forced to recognize that I had always known it.

I saw that while I was free not to honor that knowledge, free to kill and eat any creature I wanted, as long as they were members of species our culture deems killable and edible, I was also free not to.

What is legal and sanctioned, even by our heroes, our parents, our religious leaders, is not always the same as what is moral. Many of the greatest crimes in history have been legal and socially sanctioned: slavery, the actions of the Nazis, and countless other forms of rape, subjugation, genocide and torture. This is not something that was only true long ago, when people were misguided, or is still true but only for people who are obtuse and different from us. It is true now and here and always. And alongside that rests the truth that we are given the freedom and the responsibility to decide for ourselves what is moral, what widens our circles of mercy and compassion, what nudges our world away from suffering and towards love.

The only way to do this is to look with our own eyes, and feel with our own hearts. If you kill an animal, or even watch a video of one being killed, and feel violence is being done, feel sadness or compassion for the creature being deprived of his or her life—or if you can't even watch because you are afraid you'll feel those things—then listen to that. Honor that. You can. You're free to choose.







Thursday, October 22, 2015

Manuscript Consultations

One of my favorite things to do is to work one-on-one with authors. It allows me to build a relationship with the work and see it evolve over time. I'm a close reader who makes lots of margin comments, but I'll help you keep the big picture in mind, too.  More info here. If you're interested, you can use the CONTACT ME button to get in touch right now.








Thursday, October 1, 2015

October Classes

Both of these classes are underway! If you're interested in taking one in the future, get in touch! I'll be holding them again in the late fall/early winter. 


Online Workshop

A traditional writing workshop, by email. We'll discuss one author's work each week. You can submit up to 5,000 words of your story or novel. Email discussions will take place each Wednesday, all day, so you can jump in whenever you're able. Limit: 5 participants.

Wednesdays, October 21 through November 18. Cost: $150.


Get Writing

Is there a story or novel you want to work on? Do you need a daily dose of encouragement, structure, and guidance? Try this course!

You'll get short daily assignments by email, which you'll share with the class. The exercises are designed to move you forward on your current writing project, by helping you explore character, stakes, plot and other elements of your narrative.

Each daily assignment will require only about 15 minutes of writing time.

This course is conducted entirely by email, so you can do the assignments whenever you have time, without leaving the house, yet still have a sense of community, accountability and structure.

Class runs from Monday, October 19 to Friday, November 13. Cost: $150.

Best of all, you can try it for the first week for just $20, then pay the balance if you'd like to continue.
__

About me: I am an award-winning author, educated at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and I have over twenty years of teaching experience. I'm currently a resident faculty member at the Yale Summer Writers' Conference and an editor at Origins Journal. I have a story in this month's issue of Tin House Magazine. More about me here.

Use the CONTACT ME form on the right to sign up!



Severin Kittelsen, October, 1890








  

Friday, September 11, 2015

New Online Class for September: Get Writing

This course is underway. Please let me know if you'd be interested in taking it in the future.

Is there a story or novel you want to work on? Do you need a daily dose of encouragement, structure, and guidance? Try this course!

How it works: You'll get short daily assignments by email, which you'll share with the class. Twice during the course, you'll share a few pages of your story. You'll read everyone else's pages, but this is not a workshop, so there's no need to write critiques. You will get comments on your pages from me.

The exercises are designed to move you forward on your current writing project, by helping you explore character, stakes, plot and other elements of your narrative.

Each daily assignment will require only about 15 minutes of writing time. Do you have to do them? Yes. I will be reading and replying (briefly) to each one. Do they have to be brilliant? Absolutely not. Messiness and experimentation are encouraged.

This course is conducted entirely by email, so you can do the assignments whenever you have time, without leaving the house, yet still have a sense of community, accountability and structure.

Class runs from Monday, September 21 to Sunday, October 18. Cost: $100.

Best of all, you can try it for the first week for just $20, then pay the balance if you'd like to continue.

About me: I am an award-winning author, educated at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and I have over twenty years of teaching experience. I'm currently a resident faculty member at the Yale Summer Writers' Conference and an editor at Origins Journal. I have a story in this month's issue of Tin House Magazine. More about me here.

Use the CONTACT ME form on the right to sign up!



Rene Magritte, Sixteenth of September, 1956





Thursday, July 30, 2015

Another Student Publication

Another student publication: John Bateman's story, "The Lonely One in Town," in the new Glitterwolf Magazine. This grew from a piece we worked on last summer at the Yale Writers' Conference. Congratulations, John! So excited about this!



Glitterwolf Magazine, Issue 9: Gender




Thursday, July 23, 2015

Two Stories from the Tarot Card Exercise

I created the Tarot Card Exercise last summer for my Yale Writers' Conference elective class Cross-Genre Fiction.

The idea was to mix elements from different genres into one short piece of writing, inviting the writer's intuition to figure out how to interpret and combine them. So, for example, a card that says "the wrong body" could turn into part of a mystery story, or horror, or science fiction, or a love story. "A woman's arm" could appear in a bed, or among leaves in the woods; it could be seen through a car window, or lying on a shelf along with other robot parts. "Sparks" might herald love, spaceship engine trouble, a house fire.

Really when I talk about crossing genres in writing, what I'm always talking about is granting yourself the freedom to follow your own voice, to allow your story to treat literary boundaries the way a wild animal treats the boundaries of state and country.

Since last summer, that exercise has been a favorite with many students. At the Yale Conference this year, two of them turned their 15-minute exercises into published pieces!

Interestingly, both concern altered bodies, trauma, and healing. And both are beautiful. Check them out.

The Glass Eye by Suzanne Samuels

Cross-Genre Body by Tara Armstrong



Mikalojus Ciurlionis, Eternity, 1906




Friday, June 12, 2015

Yale

Teaching fiction at the Yale Writers' Conference. It's always wonderful to be here.

Lux et Veritas

View from my classroom window
Lighting in Linsly-Chittenden Hall

Monday, June 8, 2015

Rob Spillman Interview at Origins Online

I'm one of the editors at Origins Journal, which has just posted this interview with Tin House editor and 2015 PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing winner Rob Spillman:
winnneolkjwlekjflskdjf laskdjf lkasdjf 2015 PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editinwinner, Rob Spillman:  

On Keeping Diverse Voices in the Light

So excited to have him in the magazine!




Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Microfiction Assignment: Day Seven


Previous exercises here:
Day One: Intro and Drafts
Day Two: Get Concrete
Day Three: The A-to-B Journey
Day Four: A New Draft
Day Five: Tighten Your Sentences
Day Six: Two New Drafts and a Revision

Look at all you've written this week. Choose your favorite piece. Rewrite it, doing whatever you think will improve it. Spend twenty minutes on it. Or more. As much time as it takes to make it as good as you can.

Now consider submitting it to one of these publications: 

Microfiction Monday Magazine —up to 100 words
100 Word Story —up to 100 words
The Offing — Microfiction category: up to 560 characters (not words!)
Nanofiction — up to 300 words
Flash Magazine — up to 360 words

If you're one of my Yale students, please bring your drafts to New Haven. I'll let you know which day to bring them to class. I can't wait to see them!



Monday, June 1, 2015

Microfiction Assignment: Day Six


 Previous exercises here:
Day One: Intro and Drafts
Day Two: Get Concrete
Day Three: The A-to-B Journey
Day Four: A New Draft
Day Five: Tighten Your Sentences 

Today you'll write two new drafts and do one revision.

Set your timer for five minutes. Write the strangest, most offputting, most uncomfortable first draft possible. Look at the the picture below if you want.

Set your timer for for five minutes. Write the strangest, most fun, most daring fist draft possible. Center it on something you secretly love. Maybe something you've never admitted to loving. If you want a picture, find your own. Here's a good place to look.

Choose your favorite of these two drafts. Set your timer for ten minutes. Revise it, using all you've learned so far.

Next: Final Revisions and Where to Publish




Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait in Hell, 1903


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Microfiction Assignment: Day Five


Previous exercises here:
Day One: Intro and Drafts
Day Two: Get Concrete
Day Three: The A-to-B Journey
Day Four: A New Draft 

You now have two revised drafts: one from yesterday, and one from the day before. Choose your favorite.

Today your assignment is to tighten your sentences. In a 100-word story, this will, obviously, be very important.

-How many words can you take out while retaining the meaning and the feeling of each sentence?

-Are there still any vague, nonspecific words?

-Are there any sentences, phrases, or words that are already implied?

For example, in a story of mine that was edited by the great people at Tin House recently, one sentence read, “she rose like a marionette on strings at the sound of his voice.” The copy editor suggested cutting “on strings,” because it's already implied by the word “marionette.” It can be hard to spot these things, but if you read over your words a few times with an eye to doing that specifically, you may be surprised at how many words you can cut. This is an exercise that will serve you well in all your writing.

Set your timer for fifteen minutes and revise your story by tightening it as much as possible. Can you get it down to 100 words?





Saturday, May 30, 2015

Microfiction Assignment: Day Four


Previous exercises here:
Day One: Intro and Drafts
Day Two: Get Concrete
Day Three: The A-to-B Journey 


Today, put aside the revisions you did on Days Two and Three. Set your timer for five minutes and write another first draft: One hundred words about anything. Look at the picture below for inspiration, if you want.

Now set your timer for ten minutes. Revise what you just wrote, with an eye to both specifics and an A-to-B journey, as discussed before.

How did that go? Are those things coming more easily now? 

If they aren't yet, give them time. Consider writing another five-minute draft later today. And another tomorrow morning when you wake up.

Next: Tighten Up Your Sentences 



Odilon Redon, The Boat (Virgin with Corona), 1897
Go here to see it larger. Make it as big as possible on your screen. Really look at it.




Friday, May 29, 2015

Microfiction Assignment: Day Three

Previous exercises here:
Day One: Intro and Drafts
Day Two: Get Concrete

Look over your rewrite from yesterday.

Now we're going to glance again at the stories we read on Day One, noticing where they start (Point A), and where they end (Point B). Determining this isn't an exact science. Here are some ideas about what the A-to-B progressions might be:

In “derelict,” we move from a zoomed-out, distant view of the yard—seeing it as if we're passing by—to a zoomed-in view, or at least sense, of the inhabitant of that yard, its resident consciousness: the “weathered body freckled with birdshit,” “the punched-in shadow still aglint with thoughts.”

In “Bras” we move from a man the narrator desires, who doesn't want her back (“You can have any guy, he says, meaning, besides me.”) to another whose macho posturing suggests he wants to to be desired (he “talks big hunting game and football”), but whom the narrator decides to leave (“I tiptoe through [the kitchen] in the morning.”)

What about “Furniture?” What do you think the progression is there? Does the narrator come to any realization about his childhood by the end of the story?

Now mentally sketch an A -> B progression for your own story. If it already has one, think about how to strengthen or clarify it.

Don't worry about getting this “right.” This is an experiment. You're just going to try it out; you can always change it later.

Set your timer for ten minutes and rewrite. Don't worry about word count for this draft.

Next: Day Four: A New Draft





Summer Classes and Services


The Tuesday Morning Workshop in Croton will continue to meet at intervals throughout the summer:

June 23 and 30th
July 21 and 28
August 4 and 11

Sign up for the late-June classes by 6/1 and get both for $90.

Individual classes are $50: let me know by the Friday before the class you plan to attend.

You can submit up to 3,000 words each week, and there will also be plenty of in-class work, focusing on different aspects of storytelling.

In each class I'll check in with everyone about their writing challenges and goals, and we'll talk about strategies to help you get where you want to go.


The Thursday evening class in Croton, Get Comfortable, is a fun, easy, low-pressure class. It will meet:

June 25
July 23 and 30
August 6 and 20


I'll be teaching at the Young Writers' Conference in Westport, CT  offered by The Company of Writers, July 6—17. Click the link for details.

There may be some teen classes in Croton in the second half of July. Please let me know if you might be interested so I can include you in my mailing! 

I'm also available for private editing, coaching and consultation throughout the summer. A consultation for new clients is only $30. Bring your dreams and goals and a bit of writing, and let's talk!



Mikalojus Ciurlionis, Scherzo, Sonata of the Summer, 1907






Thursday, May 28, 2015

Microfiction Assignment: Day Two

Click here for Day One: Intro and Drafts

First Revision: Getting Concrete and Specific

Read over your four drafts from yesterday. Choose the one that interests you most. It doesn't have to be the most polished.

Glance again at the three 100-word stories you read yesterday. Notice the concrete, specific details in each one.

What if the author of derelict had just said, “the yard looked neglected” instead of describing “a crumpled purple bathing suit blown from a clothesline; the splintered hen coop stacked with empty jam jars?”

What if the author of I Was Furniture had told us “my mother was overwhelmed and disorganized and we didn't have enough money and I felt ignored and unsafe,” instead of showing us “the burnt toaster left on the snow-covered roof,” “the toy box overflowing with decapitated toys, and, of course, the hot iron left dangerously near the bed?”

Can you see the difference? This is what writing teachers mean when they say, “show, don't tell.” 

It's something even experienced writers often have to remind themselves of. I think that's because we often feel the need to sum things up for readers, fearing they won't get our point. But often the point we try to make, with our conscious minds, is less interesting than the complex reality.

Trust your reader, and yourself. Enter the story without trying to understand it right away. Just observe. Show us what you see.

Set the timer for ten minutes and rewrite. Don't worry about word count for this draft.

Next: Day Three: An A-to-B Journey




Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Microfiction Assignment: Day One

If you're one of my Yale Writers' Conference students, welcome! These are your optional pre-conference assignments. I'll post one a day for seven days.

If you're not one of my YWC students, have a look anyway! Anyone can do these. They'll help you practice all your storytelling skills—drafting, revising, shaping, polishing—in miniature. If you like these, feel free to send me a message and let me know!

Intro:

Microfiction is a story told in 300 words or fewer. For the purposes of this assignment, we'll use a limit of 100 words.

For more on where to read or publish microfiction, here's a great resource list.

Overview:

Goal: A finished piece of up to 100 words

Purpose: To practice writing, revision, and polishing, in miniature

Time commitment: 10 to 20 minutes of writing per day for 7 days, + some very short readings.


Day one: 

Here are a few pieces to read. For simplicity's sake, they're all from 100 Word Story.

derelict, by LJ Moore

Bras Left Behind with Bros, by Etkin Camoglu

I Was Furniture  by James McCready
 

Now you're going to write four quick stories of your own. You have five minutes to write each one. Do not spend longer than five minutes on each.

It's okay if your story doesn't have a shape or a point or if it isn't about anything. We'll get to that later.

Set your timer for 5 minutes. Write 100 words. Optional: take inspiration from the picture below. (Scroll down.)

Do this three more times: 100 words in five minutes X 3. Here are three more pictures, if you want inspiration.

Did you find your writing got any looser, faster, or more risky towards the end? Which is your favorite of the four pieces you just wrote?

Next: Day Two: Get Concrete














Felix Vallotton, The Ball, 1899







Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New Story

My story "The Thief" will be published in the Fall 2015 issue of Tin House!




Frank Stella, The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, 1959





Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Lynda Barry's Four-Minute Diary Exercise

Hey, Lynda Barry's copying me!  Look at these two-minute writing exercises . . . that she posted three years ago . . . Okay, she's not copying me. But she is apparently an amazing teacher, and I wanted to share this diary-keeping exercise from her tumblr:

Check it out here.

What if you tried this for a week? What might it do for your writing? It doesn't matter whether you write fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. "To notice what it is you notice," as she says, is everything.




Monday, May 11, 2015

Call for Submissions: Origins Journal

Origins Journal explores the narrative arts through the lens of identity. We’re interested in distinct voices. Writing that tells us something about a character's roots or what makes her unique. Stories that transport us across town and country, beyond and within borders both physical and abstract, to discreet moments that change or define us. We publish poetry, prose, translation, interviews and flash fiction. Our fall issue will focus on the theme of shame. For full guidelines, visit us here: http://www.originsjournal.com/submit/.







Tuesday, May 5, 2015

In-Class Exercises from "Get Uncomfortable"


In-class exercises and a reading list from my current writing class, "Get Uncomfortable." You can do these at home. The idea is to think about the ways in which good fiction, and nonfiction, can spring from encounters with the world outside our familiar zones of comfort.

Take two minutes to answer each of these:

-What do you sometimes think you might write more about if it didn't make you uncomfortable?

-Is there a story you have been wanting to write but you feel like you can't for any reason? (Doesn't have to be identified as “discomfort.”) What is that reason?

-Have you ever been in a situation where you feel you failed to do the right thing? Was there a right thing to do? 


Think about a story you're working on right now, or would like to be. Think about the main character. If your piece is nonfiction, the main character is probably you. Or if the piece centers on one specific person, it could be that person.

If you like, you can run through these questions again with secondary characters.

Spend one minute on each:

-What is s/he ashamed of?
-Does s/he lie to herself or himself?
-Does s/he cause harm to another, or fail to prevent it? How?
-Does s/he live in a bubble? What's inside the bubble? 
-What's outside it?
-What are the advantages of staying inside the bubble?
-What are the dangers of stepping outside it?
-What are your character's strengths?

Spend two minutes on this:

-Are you going to push your character outside the bubble? How?

And in case you haven't seen it it, here's  the reading list for the class.



Konstantin Somov, Landscape with a Wicket, 1893





Monday, May 4, 2015

Reading List for "Get Uncomfortable"

Here are some suggested readings for May's Tuesday morning workshop, Get Uncomfortable. We'll be reading some short ones in class; the others are optional.

A common theme in all these stories is characters who live in a bubble of some kind and who either make, or fail to make, a transition from their safe, insulated, or familiar world into the unfamiliar, danger-fraught territory outside the bubble.

Some of these can be read in five minutes.

"The Garden Party"  by Katherine Mansfield, 1922
"Indian Camp" by Ernest Hemingway, 1924 (5-minute read)
     What happens when we look at the lives of others who live outside our bubble? Are we even capable of actually seeing what's out there?

"Car Crash While Hitchhiking" by Denis Johnson, 1992 (5-minute read)
     The narrator is a messed-up, helpless witness to others' suffering, who can't reach outside himself to touch them.
     Here's a reflection on the story by Jeffrey Eugenides.

"The School" by Donald Barthelme, 1981 (5-minute read)
     Schoolroom humor veers uncomfortably into tragedy. When hope returns, it's in the form of a giant gerbil.

"The Werewolf" by Angela Carter, 1979 (5-minute read)
     For a young girl, the familiar turns unfamiliar and violent. Or is she one one who changes?

"The Imp of Perverse" by Edgar Allan Poe, 1845
     “I am safe — I am safe — yes — if I do not prove fool enough to make open confession.” 



Patrick Heron, Green and Purple Painting with Blue Disc May 1960, 1960






Saturday, May 2, 2015

Get Uncomfortable

Good writing often comes from pushing against the boundaries of our comfortable worlds. From bravely encountering questions without answers, stories without happy endings, mysteries larger than words. Discomfort doesn't equal darkness. Outside the bubble lies sadness, yes, but deep joy, too. It's where we encounter the full range of human experience. This class will combine in-class work with opportunities to workshop your prose. 

     Tuesdays May 5 to June 2, 9:45 to 11:45 a.m. 
     at the Ajna Center, 75 S Riverside Ave, Croton-on-Hudson NY
     $200 for all five classes; $50 for one class







Get Comfortable

This is a Thursday evening writing class for those who are just starting out, are feeling stuck, or are returning to writing after a break. Get lots of encouragement and support while we get your pen moving with short, fun in-class writing assignments and homework. You'll be amazed at how much you write—and how good it is.   


     Thursdays May 7, 14, 21, and 28, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
     at the Ajna Center, 75 S Riverside Ave., Croton-on-Hudson, NY 
     $175 for the month; $50 for one class






Vincent Van Gogh, Basket of Sprouting Bulbs, 1887




Friday, May 1, 2015

Just Came Across This on Tumblr

Ludwig cosplay. From http://kyanitera.tumblr.com/    ♥

(For those who don't know, this is a character from my novel Lives of the Monster Dogs.)



Ludwig cosplay from http://kyanitera.tumblr.com/





Thursday, April 30, 2015

Still Time to Apply to Yale Writers' Conference

The application deadline has been extended to May 15. Info here.

I need one more person to sign up for my fun, intense Session II class, "Cross-Genre Fiction." I have four students but they need five to run it. (I'll be there in Session I regardless.) This class is for people who are crossing genre boundaries: mixing their straight fiction with elements of horror, sci-fi, romance, suspense, mystery, or anything else.

Even if your story does none of that and you'd like to study with me, feel free to join! Last year we had several stories with no genre elements. It really doesn't matter: the point is, it will be a good class and we'll critique each story on its own terms, whatever those are. We'll respect it for the unique thing it is and talk about how to make it even better.

I really don't want them to cut this great class, so if you know anyone who might be interested, please let them know! Use the CONTACT ME form on the right to get it touch and I'll happily answer your questions.

Session II is only four days: June 18—21, and half of it's on a weekend. You get to eat, sleep and study at Yale, use the beautiful Beinecke Library, and hang out at Mory's. The people are wonderful, and a lot of fun and bonding goes on.

Check it out here: Yale Summer Writers' Conference



View from the dorms, summer 2013




Tuesday, April 28, 2015

May Class Schedule

There's a lot going on in May. This will be my last month teaching in Croton before I head off to Yale for most of June. 

In July and August, I'll try to get in as many classes as I can. Dates TK. Let me know if you're interested. I'll be back to a full schedule again in September.


Saturday May 2: Get Unblocked at the Hudson Valley Writers' Center in Sleepy Hollow. Here's my essay about it on the HVWC blog.

At the Ajna Center in Croton:

Get Comfortable
This easy, low-pressure group is for beginners, those returning to writing after a break, and those who are feeling stuck. Get lots of encouragement and support while we get your pen moving with short, fun in-class writing assignments and homework. You'll be amazed at how much you write—and how good it is.   
     Thursdays May 7, 14, 21, and 28, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
     $175 for the month; $50 for one class 

Get Uncomfortable
Good writing often comes from pushing against the boundaries of our comfortable worlds. From bravely encountering questions without answers, stories without happy endings, mysteries larger than words. Discomfort doesn't equal darkness. Outside the bubble lies sadness, yes, but deep joy, too. It's where we encounter the full range of human experience. This class will combine in-class work with opportunities to workshop your prose. 
     Tuesdays May 5 to June 2, 9:45 to 11:45 a.m.
     $200 for all five classes; $50 for one class

Evening Writing Group
 This 3-week class is for people at all levels who need an evening meeting time. Sign up for one or for all three.
     Mondays May 4, 11, and 18, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
     $140 for all  three classes; $50 for one class


If you need alternate times, or a different sort of class, I can work with your needs and schedule! Use the CONTACT ME form on the right to get in touch. I only need three people to start a class. Private editing and coaching is also available. 



Isaac Levitan, The First Green May, 1888




 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Nine Exercises, Again

My essay in The Craft (just out from Elephant Rock Books) was taken from Exercise #4 in this series.

Start at #1 and you can have a draft of a new story in nine days. It will be super messy and imperfect. But it will be real. And that's a step forward from the perfect version that exists only in your head. Try it!

Nine Exercises to Help You Draft a New Story



Nicholas Roerich, Kiss the Earth, scene design for Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," 1912




Friday, April 24, 2015

New Poem on Origins Web Site

basilisk woman by Xandria Pillips is up on the Origins web site.





Two Opportunities for Young Writers

One Teen Story is looking for teen authors. They used to publish eleven YA pieces by adults per year, and one by a teen. Now they've decided to devote at least four of their twelve yearly issues to work by teens.

Guernica Magazine is looking for interns. The deadline to apply is May 5.








Thursday, April 23, 2015

Trey Ellis Visited My Class!

Such an honor to have the amazing Trey Ellis visit my Westport, CT class last night! He was able to speak to the students' diverse interests, since he's an accomplished essayist, novelist, memoirist, journalist, playwright, screenwriter, and speechwriter, who also teaches at the Columbia Graduate School of Film. Whew. It takes forever just to list the categories of his accomplishments. What an inspiring and energizing class.




Wednesday, April 22, 2015

More on Origins

More about the Spring issue of Origins, now available from Magzter:

As I've mentioned, I'm one of the four editors of this young literary journal. Our mission is to be a platform for diverse voices, in particular for works that reflect the origins and identity of  their creators. We have some incredible stories in our second issue. Each in some way moves across borders of time, place and culture to give us a unique perspective.

The full issue costs $2.99. We still have excellent free content on our web site at OriginsJournal.com. I especially like "Blind Spot" by Toronto writer Tanaz Bhathena, which I had the pleasure of working on as an editor. I know the world will be seeing more from this author!




Sunday, April 19, 2015

Read This: What's Happening in Literary Magazines III — Teen Fiction

Did you know there are quite a few literary magazines out there that publish writing exclusively by and for teens? Here's a good list of them, from The Company of Writers. And here are some recently published stories I like:

Mija's Mirrors from Rookie Magazine

Barren Soil from Teen Ink

The Messiah of Birds from Canvas Literary Journal

Earlier:

What's Happening in Literary Magazines I — Fiction

What's Happening in Literary Magazines II — Nonfiction



John Bratby, 1928-1992, Daffodil





Saturday, April 18, 2015

Origins Journal on Magzter

Origins Journal is now available from Magzter! Scroll down; it's under "New Arrivals."

Online content is here on the updated web site.








New Post on Hudson Valley Writers' Center Blog

I have a new post up on the Hudson Valley Writers' Center blog about my upcoming class, Get Unblocked.



Kuzma Petrov Vodkin, The First of May, 1919





Friday, April 17, 2015

Origins Journal T-Shirts


I'm honored to be an editor at this cool and beautiful new literary magazine, Origins. And now they have T-shirts! The new issue is due out later this month.



Save a writer. Read a lit mag.





Thursday, April 16, 2015

Read This: What's Happening in Literary Magazines II — Nonfiction

A followup to this post. Just a few things I've read lately.

If you write nonfiction and you're looking for a place to publish it, check out these pieces from three excellent magazines and see what resonates with you.

NONFICTION

The Heart as a Torn Muscle from Brevity magazine

Love Innings from Little Fiction (yes, the piece is nonfiction in spite of the magazine's name)

Submerged from Story magazine (" " ")


AND here's a list of magazines that publish very short nonfiction pieces. Originally posted in 2012, it was updated in January 2015 and all the links are live. A great resource.

Where to Publish Flash Nonfiction and Micro Essays




Send your work to magazines that publish pieces you love




Monday, April 13, 2015

Grow

Sign up for this class! This Thursday at the Ajna Center in Croton. 7 to 8:30.



Vincent Van Gogh, Basket of Spring Bulbs, 1887





Sunday, April 12, 2015

Read This: What's Happening in Literary Magazines — Fiction

Do you read literary magazines? Do you want to write for them?

The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses estimates that there are 600 actively published today; Poets & Writers lists 1,109 in its database. How do you even begin to sort through them?

I don't have a definitive answer. But here are some of the readings from two classes I'm teaching in writing for literary magazines. Most of these are incredibly short; you can read them in under ten minutes. They come from a range of interesting publications. Check them out. Maybe you'll find the home for your next piece.

Over the next two days I'll post a sampling of nonfiction and teen fiction, too.


FICTION

Fat Man and Little Boy, a novel excerpt from Gone Lawn

Thursday Night Karaoke from Little Fiction

As the Token Female Member. . . from McSweeny's 

Descent from Nightmare magazine

When Joan Jumped Into the Sea, micro fiction from The Offing
 
Blind Spot from Origins Journal

Let's Go from PANK

The Bad Sleep from Story magazine
(longer; totally worth it)

Boy Teen, flash fiction from Tin House



 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Class for Teens is on for Saturday April 11

The teen writing workshop info has changed since I first posted, so I'm posting it here again. I've also updated it elsewhere on the site.

Workshop for Teens
ages 15 to 18
Saturdays: April 11, 18 and 25
12:00 to 1:30 p.m.
at the Ajna Center
75 S Riverside Ave, Croton, NY
Price: $150

We have enough folks for the course; if you want to add your name, feel free to contact me anytime before the first class!



Konstantin Yuon, The Beginning of Spring, 1935







Thursday, April 9, 2015

Grow

This class is for those who are feeling stuck, are just starting out, or are easing back into writing after a break. The point is to have fun and explore your potential.

Our first meeting has been rescheduled for Thursday April 16, 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Ajna Center, 75 S. Riverside Avenue, Croton-on-Hudson, NY. Use the CONTACT ME form on the right for more info.



Vincent Van Gogh, Basket of Sprouting Bulbs, 1887





I Have an Essay in This Book

Just out from Elephant Rock Books! The Craft: Essays on Writing from the Yale Writers' Conference Faculty with essays by Richard Selzer, John Crowley, Sybil Baker, Marc Fitten and me.  









Tuesday, March 31, 2015

April Offerings

April classes in Croton-on-Hudson, NY:

Getting Published in Literary Magazines, Tuesdays in April, 9:45 to 11:45 a.m.

Writing Workshop for Teens Saturday April 11, 18 and 25 12:00 to 1:30
(still need one or two more people to make this happen)

Class for Beginners and Those Returning to Writing After a Break  April 16, 7 to 8:30 p.m.


. . . and in Sleepy Hollow, right at the beginning of May:

Get Unblocked at the Hudson Valley Writers' Center, Saturday, May 2, 1 to 4 p.m.



Umberto Boccioni, April Evening, 1908





Sunday, March 29, 2015

April 9 Class Is On

The April 9 class is definitely happening! The plan for this evening is fun, low-pressure exercises to help you ease into writing, or come back to it after a break. We'll also discuss goals and overcoming the obstacles that stand in your way.

If you're interested, please let me know using the CONTACT ME form on the right.

Thursday, April 9
7 to 8:30 p.m.
at the Ajna Center
75 S Riverside Drive, Croton, NY
$50



Carl Fredrik Hill (d. 1911), Interior with Tigers





Friday, March 27, 2015

Evening Class on April 9

How about an evening class on Thursday, April 9, 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Ajna Center in Croton-on-Hudson, NY? I just need one or two more people to make it happen. Use the CONTACT ME form on the right if you're interested.