What is the title of your class?
People should take this class if…
Take “Six Keys” if you are interested in learning more about the mechanics of literary nonfiction, thrive on lively discussion and in-class writing exercises, and don’t want a workshop or critique class. (This is NOT a workshop class.)
Take “Six More Keys” if all of the above are true AND you have taken “Six Keys” anytime since I started offering it (at Hugo House and the Port Townsend Writers Conference) in 2008!
Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?
Best way is through my old-school website. You can send me an old-school email. Passenger pigeon to my house in Columbia City might work, too.
Are any of your works online and available to the public?
Absolutely. Find links to some of my essays, narrative nonfiction, commentary, and other iterations of literary nonfiction on the publications page of my website.
What excites you about the material you’re teaching?
I love taking apart great nonfiction and seeing how it works. Even more, I love applying the keys we find to participants’ nonfiction projects: polishing book-length memoirs, writing a first lyric essay, creating liner notes for a music CD, writing profiles of fascinating people, or crafting flash nonfiction about a year spent in a far-off locale … Best of all, the keys seem to work equally well for those who have been crafting literary nonfiction for decades as for those who started last week.
Tell us a bit about your previous teaching experience.
I taught my first class at Hugo House in 2007, when I was lucky to be writer-in-residence. Since then, I’ve taught more than 1,200 students in classes at universities, community literary centers, national parks, public libraries, county jails, and other venues in twenty states and two countries. You can read more about my teaching experience.
What do you like best about teaching at Hugo House?
There are many things I love about teaching at Hugo House, but the students’ high level of enthusiasm and the community we create in the classroom are the things I most cherish.
What’s the best piece of writing you’ve read in the past year?
David Foster Wallace’s 2012 essay collection, Both Flesh and Not.
What books made you want to write?
Every book I’ve ever read. The good ones inspired (yet intimidated) me and the bad ones bolstered my courage.
If there was one piece of advice you could give an aspiring writer, what would it be?
Read. Early and often.
If you were to meet your favorite writer in person later today, what would you say to them?
Something insipid and/or stupid, I am sorry to say. I have in fact met several of my favorite authors – Katherine Boo, Sandra Cisneros, Eduardo Galeano, Adam Hochschild, Luis Alberto Urrea – and invariably I have said something insipid, stupid, or both.
What are you reading now? If you could pair it with a beverage (alcoholic or otherwise), what would you choose?
Sherman Alexie’s Blasphemy, Camille Dungy’s poetry anthology Black Nature, Eve Ensler’s In the Body of the World, a history of Acadia National Park, and the latest poetry collection by Irma Pineda (a Mexican writer whose work I translate).
Beverage pairings are beyond me — my tastes in both words and drink are rather catholic.