Lit Lesson #9: What I Learned from the Novel, There There, by Tommy Orange

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 there a structure that adheres to the three part form? But this was also a teaching that needed to stretch us beyond our usual course of...

Lit Lesson #8: 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 conversation increased too, in volume and misery and division and discomfort. Usually, staying on track isn’t difficult. The tidal...

Lit Lesson #7: 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 western literature, since his writing and writing style has had a significant impact on nearly all aspects of that genre.” There...

Lit Lesson #6: 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. In fact, King makes a point to read books he doesn’t like because he...

Lit Lesson #5: Fragments

A short post, but a good one with the meat in the actually recording from class. This was pre-pandemic and I hope you enjoy a vintage class! 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 it, there is a handout that you can print. You must click on the link and then download the document, otherwise your copy will be fuzzy. If you are...

Lit Lesson #4: One Writer on her Journey to Literary Representation

Though publishing ins’t, and shouldn’t be, the primary measure of artistic worth, it goes a long way toward affirming one’s status as a writer. ~ C. Michael Curtis, Publishers and Publishing. On Writing Short Stories edited by Tom Bailey Studio III’s Becky Ellis secured a literary agent for her first memoir with the working title: At War with my Father. This posting in a Q & A format is about how she went about the process. Jennifer: When, in the process of writing...

Lit Lesson #3: Defamiliarization

Defamiliarization refers to a writer’s taking an everyday object that we all recognize and, with a wave of his or her authorial magic wand, rendering that same object weirdly unfamiliar to us—strange even. Presto change-o, our perspective shifts and we see the object in a new way. A pretty neat magic trick, if you ask us. The word defamiliarization was coined by the early 20th-century Russian literary critic Viktor Shklovsky in his essay “Art as Technique.” He argued that...

Lit Lesson #2: Resources for Submission

If you are a writer studying at the Studio, you know I’ve been promising a resource list to help ease your way toward submitting your work. It’s here, at last, and I must thank Joseph from Studio III, because he pulled it all together for me. Many balk at submitting, due to the fear. IE:  You might believe your work is not good enough yet, or you have a terror of rejection.  But submitting, ironically, is a terrific way to get over your fears. Once you start the process,...

Lit Lessons #1: Welcome, a Story, and a Teaching on Structure

Welcome to Blackbird and specifically, to this site for Lit Lessons which is a series of posts from the ongoing teachings offered here at Blackbird, largely by the teachers, but also by the students with something to offer and share that they’ve learned and put into practice in their own writing. Comments are welcome and appreciated (though vetted too). NOTE: If you are a student who would like to have something published on Lit Lessons, please contact Cloieatblackbird@gmail.com for more...