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Jump Start. Reset. Recharge. Fiction Writing Intensive with James Sallis

Date(s): Saturdays, August 4 - 11, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Piper Writers House, 450 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281
Lecture, Seminar
Genre and Form(s): Crime Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction

$299 Regular, $269 ASU Affiliate, $249 Student
About the Class: 

Join renowned writer James Sallis for a two-day, eight-hour intensive course on the fundamentals of writing good fiction— including the foundation, cornerstones, edges, and walls. Writers will gather over two half day sessions to get moving, get back on track, and get motivated to write! This intensive course will cover an overview of the multitude of choices you have as a fiction writer and how those choices interconnect to give a story its specific signature, density, and weight.

Sallis and students will open the fiction toolbox together, hold up each tool, and talk both about what these tools are generally used for as well as what they can be used for. The focus over the two days will be on beginning choices: how much of the story to tell, where to start, whose story is it, how to recognize clichés, saying no to Central Casting, leaving space, learning to cut away unused limbs, bringing the reader into the story, and approaches to setting, characterization, dialogue, timeline, and backstory. The course will examine the story that lies beneath the story, tucked away out of sight, and what gives this story substance.

About the Instructor(s): 

Over the past fifty years, while "mostly wandering about the house," James Sallis has published seventeen novels, multiple collections of short stories, poems and essays, three books of musicology, reams of criticism, a classic biography of Chester Himes, and a translation of Raymond Queneau's novel Saint Glinglin. Onetime editor of the London-based magazine New Worlds, Jim worked for many years as a reviewer for periodicals including the New York Times, L.A. Times, and Washington Post; served for three years as books columnist for the Boston Globe; and maintains a books column at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His novels include Drive, from which the award-winning film derived, the six Lew Griffin novels, and (set in Phoenix) The Killer Is Dying. Sallis has received a lifetime achievement award from Bouchercon, the Hammett Award for literary excellence in crime writing, and the Grand Prix de Littérature policière. His latest novel, Willnot, was published in 2016, his fourth poetry collection, Night’s Pardons, just before.


Selected Media:

DuChateau, Christian. "Meet the mystery man behind 'Drive." CNN, September 18, 2011.

James Sallis may be the best crime writer you've never heard of. In an award-winning career spanning some forty years, he's written more than two dozen volumes of fiction, poetry, essays, criticism and biography inspiring a small but cult-like following of readers. Now his fan base is about to get a big boost.

Levy, Lisa. "American Noir and the Outlaw Lit of James Sallis: In Praise of a Great American Crime Writer." Lit Hub, June 17, 2016.  

Why aren’t we talking about James Sallis? In fact, why aren’t we talking about Sallis (b. 1944) alongside his American contemporary paranoids and peers, Don DeLillo (b.1936) and Thomas Pynchon (b. 1937)? Sallis is not the big name that these two are, but he certainly could be.

Rawson, Keith. "10 Questions with James Sallis." LitReactor, November 5, 2013.

Q: What's the biggest mistake you've made as a writer?

A: We could talk for quite a while about that word “mistake,” implying as it does that, like characters in poorly written fiction, we have simplistic, monosyllabic motives, i.e., that we know what the hell we’re doing and are in control of it.

Commercially, not sticking to one genre might be construed a mistake. Who is this guy? Poet? PI novelist? Avant-garde weirdo? Fish? Fowl?

The sole “mistake” to which I’d admit without reserve: Not writing enough. Though I’m pretty sure laziness accounts for that more than does misdirection.

Sallis, James. "Manchette: Into the Muck." The New York Review of Books, June 18, 2014.

In America it was Hammett and Chandler: Hammett who took murder out of the manor houses and gave it back to the people who actually commit it; Chandler who fashioned of bus stations, diners, and cheap hotel rooms, at the frontier’s last raw edge, a mythology specifically American. In France the new maps were drawn by Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942-1995).

Sallis, James. "Books: Tourists and Native Speakers." Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2018. 

We—the field, the genre, whatever this thing got called—we were avant-ier than avant-garde. Good old sf got up every morning thinking about matters that had rarely if ever before been thought about. Wondering how vastly different lives would or might be, connecting the dots of all manner of stars, prodding at the underbellies of social structures, thumbing its nose at received wisdom, stepping back from the usual frame to show mankind's place in the universe in far larger contexts.

On the other hand, hunkered down here in our cabin in comfortable clothes, we've always felt kind of safe and warm, dissembling at all talk of aesthetic issues, cranky with literary writers who dropped toes in our pond, thinking of them as interlopers and carpetbaggers. Magpies, they were, thieving shiny things from others' nests.

We fully believed we tapped into a greater reality, digging our way beneath the countless surfaces of dailyness. Outsiders, literary and otherwise, saw only distortions of that reality, distortions that were at best silly and at worst—since the arts are supposed to improve our understanding of the world, to help us engage more fully with it—dangerous.