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“Several years ago, I asked the editor of one of my favorite literary journals what she, as an editor, is looking for as she begins to ‘cold read’ a new piece,” says instructor Lori Ostlund. “Her answer? ‘I am looking for the burden to shift.’ What she meant is that she is looking for that buy-in moment, that turning point where she relaxes into the story because she senses that the writer is in charge.”
What is it that “shifts the burden” and makes readers feel that they want to spend time inside a writer’s world? In this one-day class, we will focus on first lines and first paragraphs: what they should do versus what creates confusion and keeps the burden on the reader. We will discuss specific types of beginnings and look at examples of some great beginnings, analyzing what makes them great. Then, we will apply these ideas to the first lines and paragraphs of stories in a recent issue of Best American Short Stories, and, if time allows, participants will have the opportunity to brainstorm their own first lines inspired by some of the examples we look at in class.
"Plan to bring two first paragraphs of an in-progress story or novel, which we will workshop during class," says Lori. "You will leave with specific feedback on two opening paragraphs as well as a better understanding of how to write and revise beginnings in the future. The class will be interactive and practical with an eye toward writing better openings that will compel readers to keep reading.”
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.
- Saturday, January 26, 10:00am-4:00pm