Word Works | Jonathan Escoffery: Earning Your Readers’ Attention
Early career writers often assume that readers’ interest and attention are a given, while, in truth, readers have limited amounts of either to spare. To meet this challenge, writers can employ a number of techniques to communicate that their stories will pay off and ultimately be worth readers’ precious time. Jonathan Escoffery will provide strategies for engaging readers, and discuss examples from the works of well-loved authors, as well as his own stories. He will be joined in conversation by Juan Carlos Reyes.
Word Works craft talks by novelists, essayists, poets, and memoirists focus on writing as process rather than finished product, examining how language works to inspire and provoke new ideas through live close readings of the writer’s own or others’ work. These talks are designed to apply to writers of all genres as well as illuminate well-known works for avid readers. The talks are followed by an interview with a noted editor, writer, or critic.
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Thank you to our Word Works season sponsor, KCTS 9.
Jonathan Escoffery is the author of If I Survive You, a debut collection of linked stories forthcoming in September 2022 from MCDxFSG, as well as the forthcoming novel, Play Stone Kill Bird. Both books will be published in the UK and Commonwealth by 4th Estate Books, in Canada by McClelland and Stewart, and will be published in translation in France by Albin Michel and in Germany by Piper Verlag.
Escoffery is the winner of The Paris Review’s 2020 Plimpton Prize for Fiction and is the recipient of a 2020 National Endowment for the Arts (Prose) Literature Fellowship. His story “Under the Ackee Tree” was among the trio that won the Paris Review the 2020 ASME Award for Fiction from the American Society of Magazine Editors, and was subsequently included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2020. His most recent stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, Zyzzyva and American Short Fiction.
Escoffery has taught creative writing and seminars on the writer’s life at Stanford University, the University of Minnesota, the Center for Fiction, Tin House, Writers in Progress, and at GrubStreet in Boston, where, as former staff, he founded the Boston Writers of Color Group, which currently has more than 2,000 members. He has received support and honors from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, Aspen Words, Kimbilio Fiction, the Anderson Center, and elsewhere.
For Writers of the World, Jonathan reflected on his love of the short story form: “I first fell in love with story’s ability to transport, to expand the borders of my reality. I recall crouching beneath my parents’ kitchen counter as a child, losing Sunday afternoons reading. That words printed between book covers could take me to far off worlds, on journeys that left me forever changed, was, to me, nothing short of magic. I also sensed perfection in the economy of these world-altering journeys; their being beautifully bound to fit in my palms. Later, I came to understand that great literature does not simply transport, but that it also helps me understand myself, and that—at its best—it helps me to better articulate my experiences and helps me further understand those of others.”
He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Creative Writing MFA Program (Fiction) and attends the University of Southern California’s Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature Program as a Provost Fellow. He is a 2021-2023 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.
JUAN CARLOS REYES
Juan Carlos Reyes has published the novella A Summer's Lynching and the fiction chapbook Elements of a Bystander. His fiction and essays have appeared in West Branch, Waccamaw, Florida Review, and Moss, among others. He’s received an Artist Trust Storyteller Grant and a PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellowship. He is the former Board President of Seattle City of Literature and is currently a Professor of Creative Writing at Seattle University.