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“We all have our favorite writing rules—never have characters talking on the phone; don’t set your story at a funeral; no vomiting—rules that have come about sometimes as simple pet peeves but more often for valid reasons that have to do with maintaining tension or not getting lazy on the page,” says instructor Lori Ostlund. In fact, parameters can be good, even helpful.
In this class, however, the parameters will be defined by breaking the rule. Each week we will look at a popular writing prohibition, talk about the logic behind it, and then embrace it. Along these lines, we will read scenes or stories that successfully break common fiction rules; weekly exercises will be aimed at writing directly into them. “Characters will vomit,” says Lori.
We will discuss these exercises in weekly workshops. This class is meant to be both generative and fun.
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, August 11, 10:30am-1:00pm
- Sunday, August 18, 10:30am-1:00pm
- Sunday, August 25, 10:30am-1:00pm
- Sunday, September 08, 10:30am-1:00pm
- Sunday, September 15, 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.