Apprenticing in Fiction: Four Masters Up-Close

with Allan Reeder Workshop Type: 4-Week, Fiction, Online, Unlisted
Length: 4-Week
Genre: Fiction
Type: Online
Location: Online
From: Sunday, 06 October 2013
To: Sunday, 03 November 2013

Workshop Description

“A writer is a reader who is moved to emulation,” – Saul Bellow.

The central goal of this workshop is to encourage this movement from observer to practitioner.

Unlike with the master painter or pianist or plumber, you cannot learn much at all from watching the master fiction-writer at work. You must observe the sentences he or she has made and set down in sequence to create the story. In other words, to apprentice in the art, you must make the page your master. This course aims to promote creatively profitable reading through a patient, up-close approach to four different “master” stories, one per week.

With focus as much on the art of the sentence as on story structure, participants will be prompted to move from what is effective on the page to how it is effective, and in turn, by becoming better readers, to make famous writers’ maneuvers graspable and ready for emulation. With such an approach, and with supplementary readings on the practice of storymaking, the course will provide specific and useful exposure to the artful elements operating in compelling short fiction.

Among the topics for readerly attention in each story will be:

  • Narrative structure
  • “Scene” vs. “summary”
  • Free indirect style
  • The specific experience in the general
  • The interplay of character and setting
  • Empathic imagination
  • Development of narrative tension/momentum
  • Imagery and its placement
  • Dialogue mechanics.

Workshop Outline

Pre-Workshop Readings (Handouts)

  • “A Note on Technique,” by Wallace Stegner
  • “My Life’s Sentences,” by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • “Reading Like a Writer,” by Francine Prose (brief excerpt)

Week 1: Going Roundtrip with The Doctor

  • Apprenticing to: “The Doctor,” by Andre Dubus (Sr.)
  • Supplementary reading: “Letter to a Young Writer” (Dubus)
  • Practice: Isolations and Emulations

Isolations are brief exercises in which participants select a particularly admirable story passage — as brief as a single sentence — and take a stab at articulating the reason for writerly admiration. What does the passage achieve? How does it achieve this effect? What can we learn?

Emulations move participants from observers of examples of effective craft to makers of original fictional moments.

Week 2: One-Way Travel with Mom

  • Apprenticing to: “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” by Flannery O’Connor
  • Supplementary reading: “Writing Short Stories” (O’Connor)
  • Practice: Isolations and Emulations (see above for descriptions)

Week 3: Free-Range Storytelling

  • Apprenticing to: “Fits” by Alice Munro
  • Supplementary readings:
    Introduction to Selected Stories (Munro)
    Excerpt from The Art of Fiction No. 137, from The Paris Review
  • Practice: Isolations and Emulations (see above for descriptions)

Week 4: Going Nowhere with Friends

  • Apprenticing to:
  • “Beginners” by Raymond Carver — original story draft
  • “Beginners” by Raymond Carver — as edited by Gordon Lish
  • “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” by Raymond Carver

Notice: Sorry, but registration for this workshop has now closed.

Allan Reeder photoAbout Allan Reeder

Allan Reeder is an award-winning writer, editor, teacher, and publisher who coaches professional and apprentice writers. After assisting novelist John Irving with fiction and screenplay projects, Allan worked as an editor at The Atlantic and then as executive fiction editor at DoubleTake magazine, where he published both new and established voices. For the past decade Allan has mentored writing students at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, where he has designed and taught studio courses in nonfiction and fiction writing and where he also founded a publishing practicum and The Blue Pencil Online, a magazine, run by his students, that draws work from young writers around the world. He is a recipient of Walnut Hill’s E. E. Ford Prize for Exceptional Merit in the studio, and for his own writing has been awarded back-to-back Artist Grants in Fiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a full fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, nomination as a Ploughshares Emerging Writer, and, most recently, a Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation. He is currently at work on a book for teachers and writers on apprenticing in fiction-writing, and he curates and writes for his blog Sentence x Sentence.

Notice: Sorry, but registration for this workshop has now closed.

Recent Blog Posts

Break the Line Early

April 10,2014 I’ve argued that consistent use of a single, consistent measure for the lines of a poem is meaning-bearing in itself and one of the most significant choices a poet can make in the construction... Continue Reading

Crock-Pot Novelist

April 01,2014 Slow-cookers have always amazed me. A hodge-podge of meat, vegetables and whatnot gets tossed in the Crock-Pot in the morning. The ingredients simmer together all day. Their flavors blend. Their aromas comingle and fill... Continue Reading
Page 1 of 1312345...10...Last »