What is the title of your class?
Building the Frame: Structure in Short Fiction
People should take this class because?
It will enliven their short stories! Short fiction is enjoying something of a renaissance right now, in part because of the structural experiments of contemporary short-story writers. As a class, we’ll look at several of these fantastic recently written stories and will discuss their alternative structures, then we’ll work on turning that discussion into inspiration for our own short fiction.
Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?
I have an author page on Facebook.
What are you reading right now?
I always have a few books going at once. Right now, they are:
Elliott Holt’s You Are One of Them
Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Kristopher Jansma’s The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards
Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad
Jodi Angel’s You Only Get Letters From Jail
Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca
Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins
What excites you about the material you’re teaching?
As both a reader and a writer the short story is my favorite form—my first love—and I’m thrilled to get a chance to share some of the best stories I’ve read with students, as well as to take apart these stories’ forms and figure out what makes them work—what makes the stories such good reading.
What do you like best about teaching at Hugo House?
The community! The moment I step through the Hugo House door I feel like I’m being welcomed home. It’s such a supportive, friendly place, full of people who are—like me—excited about literature. I always come away from a visit to the Hugo House feeling inspired and ready to write, and I can’t think of much that’s better than that.
What books made you want to write?
I think I’ve been shaped more by individual short stories than by whole books, and on my list would be stories by Alice Munro and Gina Berriault, Andrea Barrett, James Baldwin, Mavis Gallant, Susan Minot, Lydia Davis, Sherwood Anderson, Joseph Conrad … and so many more, though these are the first to come to mind. These writers’ stories were the first that made me want to write as a young woman.
If there was one piece of advice you could give an aspiring writer, what would it be?
Is there a book, poem, essay, etc. by another author that you wish you had written yourself? Why?
Oh, so many. One of the best story collections I’ve read in the last few years—a really perfect collection, I think—was Anthony Doerr’s Memory Wall. Every story was a surprise, so different from the rest in the book, but also so fully realized.
If you could have coffee with any author living or dead, who would it be?
Right now I’d say Tillie Olsen. But I don’t think I would have answered that way ten years ago. And I’ll probably have a different answer in another ten.
What’s your favorite book? If you could pair it with a glass of wine or a pint of beer, what would you choose?
Willa Cather’s My Antonia and a pint of some dark, earthy porter.