Corinne Manning is teaching the class Short-Story Sundays at Hugo House this summer. She took the time to answer some questions for us.
What is the title of your class?
People should take this class because?
What better way is there to spend Sunday than talking about stories? Rather than going to church, we’ll be going to Fiction, which is a religion all its own filled with even more mystery and magic. By looking at a single short story a week it will give us the chance to really explore how each author is using different elements of craft to serve the story, and it will help make concepts that often seem very daunting—like time or subtext—become more navigable.
Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?
Find me on twitter @corinnemanning and, if I remember, sometimes tumblr.
I wrote an essay about food and The Wandering Goose here.
What are you reading right now?
Bobcat, a gorgeous collection of stories by Rebecca Lee.
What excites you about the material you’re teaching?
I love stories—I love how they are these microcosms where all of life can take place within very specific instances. Marly Swick is a writer who I recently came across and who is just a masterful story teller, and all of the writers we’ll discuss have a tendency to take their work well beyond where you thought it was going to go, which is partly what makes fiction so thrilling. We are going to employ exercises like writing a scene where all you have is dialogue and no context and then rewriting the scene where all you have is context and no dialogue.
What do you like best about teaching at Hugo House?
Teaching at Hugo House is one of my dream jobs. I love working with students and feeling like we are part of this greater conversation: we are all there because we love words and want to explore the creative voice. Something happens when I teach there; I just can’t bottle up the enthusiasm and I leave feeling happy and warm.
What books made you want to write?
When I was younger Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt. Then, when I was in college, James Baldwin’s Another Country and Giovanni’s Room.
If there was one piece of advice you could give an aspiring writer, what would it be?
Have compassion for yourself and have compassion for your characters (and if you are writing a memoir you need to have compassion for yourself doubly). This will help garner patience and strength.
Is there a book, poem, essay, etc. by another author that you wish you had written yourself? Why?
I always feel weird about this kind of question because what makes the story or essay so amazing is that specific writer’s voice and experience. And I don’t know if I would want to be any other writer. I feel constantly inspired by the Mary Gaitskill story “Mirror Ball,” especially with the way she blends the metaphysical and the real life sensation of what it might feel like for a piece of your soul to be stolen. I wish I could have that level of compassion for my characters. That level of compassion is what I always strive for.
If you could have coffee with any author living or dead, who would it be?
Living: the playwright Sarah Ruhl. She has the most beautiful stage directions I’ve ever read. Things like “They look at each other, they fall in love. They look again. They fall in love completely.”
Dead: James Baldwin—though I’d be nervous. How do you have coffee with your hero? I don’t know how much I would say—and I don’t know how much he’d let me get away with just listening.
What’s your favorite book? If you could pair it with a glass of wine or a pint of beer, what would you choose?
Another Country by James Baldwin. If I were drinking—whiskey and milk. These days, club soda with a whole lot of bitters.