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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, was a Barnes & Noble Discover pick, a finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her story collection, The Bigness of the World, won the 2008 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the California Book Award for First Fiction, and the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award, and was a Lambda Finalist. Lori’s work has appeared in the Best American Short Stories and the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories as well as in ZYZZYVA, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, and other journals. Lori has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Award and was a finalist for the 2017 Joyce Carol Oates Prize. She has been a teacher for over twenty-five years in New Mexico, Spain, Malaysia, and North Carolina and is currently on the Mile-High MFA faculty. Since 2022, she has served as the series editor of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She lives in San Francisco, where she is at work on her fourth book, a novel entitled The Proprietresses, based on the years that she and her wife owned a furniture store in Albuquerque. Her third book, a story collection entitled Are You Happy?, will be published by Zando Projects in April 2025.
- Sunday, January 12, 10:30am-1:00pm
- Sunday, January 19, 10:30am-1:00pm
- Sunday, January 26, 10:30am-1:00pm
- Sunday, February 02, 10:30am-1:00pm
- Sunday, February 09, 10:30am-1:00pm
Lori is a great teacher, and came with a plan. She was kind and patient, and steered/started conversations in a tactful way. She skillfully led discussions of the samples we read. When it came to critiquing our own work, any comments were couched in constructive language, and she set the tone for critiques.
She was much more accessible than other teachers I have had in the past. She even went so far as to think further about questions she had already answered in class, and e-mail her thoughts to us later.
Lori Ostlund has an incredibly deep understanding of how fiction works. The lecture portion gives me useful tools, the prompts get me writing, and the workshop feedback gives me actionable next steps for my writing. It was the ideal mix of lecture, exercises, and feedback.
I've loved every class I've taken from Lori Ostlund. I would enroll in any new class that she offered in the future.
Lori is an excellent instructor: insightful, thoughtful, and engaging. The balance between lecture and workshop felt appropriate and gave structure to a fairly large class. Amazing! Lori has a very approachable teaching style while still providing structure and encouraging growth. I think I got exactly the push I needed to dive deeper into my scene work. I greatly appreciated the chance to receive and provide feedback.