Michael Shilling is teaching a class, “Plot: It’s Not a Four-Letter Word” at Richard Hugo House this spring. He took some time to answer some questions for us.
What is the title of your class?
People should take this class because?
You’ll learn that plot is a) nothing to be afraid of, b) the natural result of internal conflict, and c) as subtle as your favorite poem. Plot is desire turned to action. Don’t you want your characters to be desirous and active?
Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?
What are you reading right now?
The Names by Don DeLillo
What excites you about the material you’re teaching?
I like showing writers that great sentences are only as great as the story they tell. That does not mean that every great story is plotty, but it does mean that every great story is full of the tension of difficult choices. Such tension usually creates a tasty plot.
What do you like best about teaching at Hugo House?
The students at the Hugo House are passionate, smart, and dedicated. I learn a lot from them and they challenge me to bring it (in a pedagogical kind of way). Plus it’s near Rancho Bravo and Yogurtland.
What book(s) made you want to write?
I want to write the kind of books that make readers re-examine their preconceived ideas about what it means to live fully, while keeping them up past their bedtime, making them late to work, and getting them to miss their stop. I also like making them laugh and cry.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Allan Gurganus said:
- Read your work out loud. If it doesn’t sound great, it’s no good.
- Use active verbs.
If you could have coffee with any author living or dead, who would it be?
What’s your favorite book? If you could pair it with a glass of wine or a pint of beer, what would you choose?
Saints and Strangers by Angela Carter, paired with a glass of revenge (sorry, I don’t drink and read).