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Lori Ostlund: Let’s Begin Here – Approaching Craft in Fiction through Character, Dialogue & Scene

5 Sundays, August 20 – September 24 (skip September 3), 10:30am-1pm  San Francisco
$275 members/$295 non-members   

In order to write, one must read constantly, observe the world well, and take seriously the craft of writing. During this five-week course, we will focus on the last of these, the craft of writing—specifically, we will focus on three mainstays of fiction: character, dialogue, and scene.

“I think that writers often feel more comfortable writing exposition and summary than scene, perhaps because in our own lives we often feel more comfortable observing than engaging, and scene is about getting our characters to engage,” says instructor Lori Ostlund. “In this class we will focus on creating scenes as a way to develop characters, demonstrate changes in them, and increase tension.

“We will also spend a lot of time on dialogue, thinking about it as a way to reveal character and relationships and, perhaps most important, as a way to reveal the shifting power dynamics that are at work in those relationships and which create tension.”

We will look at examples from short stories and novels and engage in in-class exercises that focus on these three craft building blocks. Participants will use these exercises to create work at home, which we will workshop during the last two weeks of class. “My goal,” Lori says, “is for us to think about these craft elements in ways that are new and generative.”

Lori Ostlund’s novel After the Parade (Scribner, 2015) was shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, was a finalist for the 2016 Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction and the Northern California Book Award for Fiction, and was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. Her first book, a story collection entitled The Bigness of the World, won the 2008 Flannery O’Connor Award, the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award, and the 2009 California Book Award for First Fiction. Stories from it appeared in the Best American Short Stories and the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories. Scribner reissued the collection in early 2016. Lori received the 2009 Rona Jaffe Foundation Award and a fellowship to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Most recently, her work has appeared in ZYZZYVA, The Southern Review, and the Kenyon Review.


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