Upcoming Classes!

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I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be teaching not one but two different classes for writers of fiction come June: one on advanced novel revision and one on openings in fiction.

The first class, on Saturday, June 11, is entitled Advanced Novel Revision: Problem Areas. It runs two hours and is designed to help authors get their novel in shape for publication in just one more revision. Do you identify with any of the following statements?

  • “I know something about this book doesn’t work, but I don’t know what that is.”
  • “I know what’s not working about this book, but I don’t know how to address that.”
  • “I love this book and think it works, but agents and editors keep rejecting it.”
  • “I love this book and think it works, but I’ve received feedback from an agent or editor and don’t know how to put that feedback to work in revision.”

If so, this class is for you.

This is a workshop-style class with a group coaching component, so come prepared to discuss your novel’s issues in depth—and walk away with the tools that will make that novel work in just one more revision.

More info and registration online at Indigo Editing.

The second class, on Monday, June 13th, is entitled Building Better Fiction: How Do Your Openings Lead To Successful Novels and Stories? It will run three hours and is designed to help participants break out of the slush pile with their work, whether it’s a novel manuscript on an agent’s desk or a short story submission in a Submittable queue. If you can relate to any of the following, this class is for you:

  • “I know my work is good, and all my beta readers love it, but I can’t seem to break out of the slush pile.”
  • “I’ve had the best story I’ve ever written rejected a bazillion times.”
  • “I’m ready to break through to the next tier with literary journals.”
  • “I’ve had this book in mind for a while now, but I have no idea where it should start.”
  • “I’m ready to get this novel published, already.”

This class will explore successful openings in fiction from a number of different angles, drawing insight from agents, editors, and the emerging body of neuroscience as it applies to fiction. A great class for both intermediate and beginning writers.

More info and registration at The Attic Institute.

Both classes will take place in Portland, Oregon.

Interested in one (or both) of these classes but don’t know if they’re right for you? If you’re local, consider joining me for the free Indigo happy hour at the Zeus Cafe in downtown Portland on Thursday, May 26th, at 6 pm–I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Listen In: Sunshine

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I’ve got a birthday this week, and I have a tradition of giving gifts on my day. Also, I’ve decided that the best way to share the love that’s been shown to me by my Patreon subscribers over these last few months is to make the audio versions of my stories free to one and all.

So here it is, my gift to you: Sunshine, as read by the author, which clocks in at almost exactly a half hour–download it or stream it, play it on your commute, your jog, your lunch break.

This is a story for everyone who’s ever had their heart broken; everyone who’s ever experienced grief as a kind of paralysis; everyone who has ever cursed the name of cancer; and everyone who has ever loved a dog (a very bad one especially). This story gave Brenda Taulbee the feels and reminded Theresa Elsey Skov of home, and I’m looking forward to hearing what it does for you.

Wednesday Works in Progress: Witch Burning

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What a pleasure it is, after nearly two weeks away from the work, to have a short story again finding its shape in imaginative space, unexpected details looming into view. Today, in the short story I’m drafting, which goes by various names, Sylvia Plath showed up.

This is the tale of a woman in her thirties facing a difficult diagnosis who forms a relationship with an elusive teenager; it takes place in a little pocket park in Prescott, Arizona. Today, for the first time, the protagonist finds a note that the girl has left in that park, amid a disturbing art installation that may be a cry for help.

At first I thought this note might contain some of the girl’s poetry–I thought, in fact, it might contain one of my own overwrought adolescent poems. But then I remembered a recent podcast, a conversation between my grad school friend Angela Ledgerwood and Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts, in which the author recalled a time when she had bought into a certain narrative about love, a rather tragic narrative supplied by the poet Sylvia Plath, and that it had been detrimental to her outlook on life.

I thought, wow, isn’t Sylvia Plath the poet all teenage girls turn to when their emotions feel too big, too tragic? I certainly did during my senior year of high school, when I discovered her work. To an adult like the one I am now–one who has faced down her own difficult diagnosis–such tragic preoccupations from so young a person cannot help but seem a bit twee.

But I think this poem of Plath’s I found in my trusty dog-eared Contemporary American Poetry perfectly carries the counterpoint, the young girl’s point of view, which is about how it feels to be kept, captive, to have your identity twisted and your voice stuffed back in your throat–how ultimately intolerable it is to be cast in such a role: “Witch Burning”, the first stanza of which I included in today’s draft.

Hot Season: And the Winner Is…

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Thanks so much to all of you who weighed in on the three options for the back cover of my debut novel, Hot Season. After careful consideration, and consultation with a number of marketing-type folks, the publisher and I agreed that the crowd favorite was the strongest. Here it is:

In the tinder-dry Southwest, three roommates—students at Deep Canyon College, known for its radical politics—are looking for love, adventure, and the promise of a bigger life that led them West.

But when the FBI comes to town in pursuit of an alum wanted for “politically motivated crimes of property,” rumor has it that undercover agents are enrolled in classes, making the college dating scene just a bit more sketchy than usual.

Katie, an incoming freshman, will discover a passion for activism that will put her future in jeopardy; Jenna, in her second semester, will find herself seduced by deception; and Rell, a senior, will discover her voice, her calling, and love where she least expects it.

Unlike option number two, this copy doesn’t emphasize the struggle for the Greene River, the issue at the heart of the book. But by foregrounding the human drama, my hope is that this copy will do more to draw the reader in.

Next challenge: securing reviews. Stay tuned.