Lit Lesson #28: Writing and Astrology

If you’ve studied with me for any length of time, you are more than familiar with my referencing “mercury retrograde” or “full moons.” More than once, I’ve also quoted Jane Smiley from 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, who says Virgo’s make the best writers. “I challenge anyone to match September 23 through September 30—F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, …

Lit Lesson #27: What I Learned from the Novel, There There, by Tommy Orange

We’ve wrapped three weeks on this book, and I’ve taught nine classes with about thirty writers, examining the novel from nearly every craft perspective possible: Plot, voice, POV, and structure while asking through teacherly questions like: Can we find a hero in a book with twelve characters? Can we find a plot from the deck of plots we study? Is …

Lit Lesson #26: Follow that Voice

In Sept, as we opened the first three weeks of the Studio in II, III, & IV (the longer-term immersion groups) we studied a chapter of the Saunders book that featured The Nose by Nikoli Gogol, 1936. I assigned a prompt from the Afterthought #5, and it was my own take on what Saunders was trying to show through his …

Lit Lesson #25: To Write with Passion, Temper those Passions

In a class, quite recently, I signed into the Zoom call late and those already present were deep into a Covid discussion. Usually, I start class with upbeat music and silly dance moves—my on-line equivalent of the sage smudging techniques you might find in Native American traditions or in many spiritual communities—but as I increased the volume, the tide of …

Lit Lesson #24: The Canon- Mine/Yours

In reading Henry Jameses, The Turn of the Screw, all the writers in the Studio bandied about this term: The Canon. From ThoughtCo, I found this definition: “In fiction and literature, the canon is the collection of works considered representative of a period or genre. The collected works of William Shakespeare for instance, would be part of the canon of …

Lit Lesson #23: Learning from Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens has, as of this posting, spent ninety four weeks on the NYT Best Seller list. That’s almost two years running. People have strong opinions about this book; “Loved it,” “Couldn’t stand it,” “Haunting,” “Trite,” “Memorable.” No matter what you feel about a book, you can always learn from it, as Stephen King says. …

Lit Lesson #22: Fragments

We spent a week discussing fragments at the Studio, and it was such a good conversation that I decided to create a small teaching for those of you who are not in class with us. To help you get the most out of this teaching, there is a hand out that you can print out. You must click on the …

Lit Lesson #21: On Getting an Agent

Studio III’s Becky Ellis was able to secure a literary agent for her first memoir with the working title: At War with my Father. This posting is about how she went about the process that led to her signing with the Heather Jackson Literary Agency. Q: When, in the process of writing your book, drafting and redrafting, did you decide to …

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, …