ENGL 24
The Craft of Fiction: A Short Story Writing Intensive Winter 2023

Class Details

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott advises aspiring authors to approach writing in gradual steps (or, in her words, “bird by bird,”) rather than being “immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.” In this course, we too will move “bird by bird,” through writing exercises that tackle the essentials of fiction. We will read the likes of Isaac Babel, Sindya Bhanoo, Octavia Butler, Anton Chekhov, Stuart Dybek, Yiyun Li, Daniel Mason, Herman Melville, Lorrie Moore, Tim O’Brien, Jim Shepard, Zadie Smith, and Ricardo Wilson to parse and then practice the techniques these authors employ to create plot, structure conflict, establish characters, and make them talk. By studying an array of voices, students will find which cadences best fit their own work. Local authors will visit our class to share ideas about their creative process with us. We’ll visit Arrowhead, Melville’s Pittsfield house, to see where he wrote Moby Dick, and as well as spend time in local museums, engaging closely with works of art there to further inspire and deepen our fiction. Beginning in Week Two, students will present their own works-in-progress, which we will discuss in a supportive workshop environment. At course’s end, students will have polished a piece of short fiction, explored the beginnings of several new projects, and learned numerous techniques to keep them writing in the future. Evaluation will be based on workshop participation and classroom discussion, brief writing exercises, and a ten-page short story. We will typically meet twice a week for three hours, though occasionally the class may extend slightly beyond this timeframe given travel to and from field trip destinations.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 12
Expected: NA
Class#: 1130
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: a 10-page paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: By application
Unit Notes: Sara Houghteling is the author of {Pictures at an Exhibition}. She is currently a lecturer in the English Department at Stanford University, where she teaches classes on the intersection of art and literature.
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses
SLFX Winter Study Self-Expression
STUX Winter Study Student Exploration

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