Years ago I had a student who only wrote stories about his grandmother. I knew that she raised him and that he grew up on her farm. Technically he was a good writer, but the stories were dull and flat. Goats, farmlands, rural life. There seemed to be no fire in the belly. After a while I asked him if he didn’t want to try his hand at something else, but he said that she was important to him, which I knew. And that he wasn’t able to be there when she died, which I didn’t know. He couldn’t be there because he was a foot soldier in Vietnam. That was the story he really needed to tell and it was the one that he eventually told.
Many people want to write and many think they know what they want to write about. But they may not have found their true subject matter. As Tim O’Brien once said, we don’t choose our subject matter. It chooses us. This is a course in the art and craft of writing fiction—character, plot, place, language. But it is also a course about letting go of the constraints that hold us back and finding those stories that matter to us. We will also focus on revision—honing your material in such a way that the story comes forward.
Perhaps there’s a pesky novel you’ve been working on forever that just hasn’t come together. Or stories you’ve begun, but can’t figure out where they are going. This is a good workshop in which to revisit those. We will critique and workshop stories as always but at the same time we will be digging deeper, looking for the hidden subjects, the whole truth as I like to call it. This is not about delving into your life. It’s about delving into your material and allowing each writer to have his/her opportunity to find the stories they might want to tell and perhaps don’t even know are there.
This is an advanced workshop for serious writers. For submission purposes only please submit ten pages with a brief statement of your interest or goal for this workshop. Submission should be a single file in .doc format with the title “MorrisSub_YourName.doc.”
About Mary Morris
Mary Morris is the author of fourteen books—six novels, three collections of short stories, and four travel memoirs, including Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone. Recently her short stories have appeared in such places as the Atlantic, Plougshares, and Narrative. The recipient of the Rome Prize in Literature, Morris teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Her new novel, The Jazz Palace, set in Chicago during the Jazz Age will be published in the spring of 2015 by Knopf Doubleday. For more information visit her website at www.marymorris.net.