Lit Lesson #20: Alice McDermott & The Ninth Hour

Alice McDermott is a remarkable writer with something to say! She believes in the voices of women and sets the task, as a writer, to give them voice. Thank you, Alice! At the Studio, we spent three classes talking about her wonderful new book THE NINTH HOUR. The questions were these: Who is narrating this point? From what point of …

Lit Lesson #19: The Sound of Gravel with Ruth Wariner

When I was very new to teaching, a writer named Ruth Wariner arrived to class with a look in her eye (both eyes, actually) that communicated the strong message of: I AM GOING TO DO THIS! Ruth was sharp, focused, and hardworking. She asked good questions, gave excellent feedback to others, and took a ton of notes. I remember thinking, …

Lit Lesson #18: Jorge Luis Borges & The Cautionary Tale

To be a strong writer, it’s important, even vital, to read a variety of authors, which is what we do at the Studio each week. Contemporary, classics, American, European and beyond. We’ve been talking now about the Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, Jorge Luis Borges, who was born in 1899 and died in 1986. Borges was one of the …

Lit Lesson #17: Tara Westover’s Educated

Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, has been on the bestseller list for 48 weeks now. That’s almost a year. Educated is the story of a girl who was raised in Idaho, by a fanatic father who denied his family education and even medical attention, and how she was able to get away by attending Brigham Young and Cambridge University. Her’s is the …

Lit Lesson #16: Going the distance, emotionally, with Peter Taylor

“..the American writer, who, more than any other, has achieved utter mastery in short fiction.”    ~ The Washington Post Pulitzer Prize winner, Peter Taylor is a writer I did not know about until one day, when walking my dog in the forest, I was listening to The New Yorker Fiction Podcast. There he was, being read by Marissa Silver, …

Lit Lesson #15: Close Reading & Mary Lavin

  “One of the finest short story writers of the twentieth century.” ~ Joyce Carol Oats   Mary Lavin, first published in 1967, wrote about women in states of solitude and independence. She was considered avant-garde in her time, but I find her writing to be particularly poignant today, amidst the chaos of change between men and women. This free …

Lit Lesson #14: Show, don’t tell

We’ve all heard the adage, “Show don’t tell,” but what does this mean exactly? I believe it is a phrase teachers use to say write a scene instead of telling me about a scene. But what does a scene look like and how is it different from summary? What are the proportion in good writing? Is this something that can …

Lit Lesson #13: George Saunders, Transcendent or just Experimental?

The Summer Studio has been very busy reading, thinking and talking about the collected work of George Saunders. I believe he potentially represents a new order of writer, someone who could possibly take literature beyond the five hundred year log jam of ego based writing (see Christopher Booker’s Seven Basic Plots, Chapter 21). We will be studying Booker and this …

Lit Lesson #12: Writers are Drawn to Drama

Luna and I, in the park this morning. Her after squirrels, the elusive foe, and me listening to a short by Eudora Welty. Where is this Voice Coming From?, was written after the shooting of civil rights activist, Medgar Evers. Welty’s story ran in The New Yorker a month later, and is from the point of view of the white supremacist who …

Lit Lesson #11: Getting Published

  The Blackbird Studio hosted two former students, Kate Hope Day and Jody Little, to talk about their recent success in publishing. They secured multiple book deals but it wasn’t an easy process. How did they do it? What can you learn from their experience? What kept them from giving up? All these questions and more are here, on a …