A short story is a highly compressed form that can capture a whole world in a short space. Generally in a good short story, we think of everything as “functioning,” i.e., working to accomplish a unified effect. What makes for a satisfying short story is the feeling that we have had a full experience, and that the writer has arrived at the best possible way to tell the story—whether traditionally or experimentally.
The short story can start with an image, an idea, an experience, or a character, drawn from imagination or from the writer’s life or, most likely, a mix of the two. Intuition can lead, but eventually the writer runs up against the need for craft. This workshop will focus on technical aspects of writing short stories: point of view, characterization, telling detail and imagery, scene and summary, back story, theme, language, and structure. We’ll read four short stories in advance to discuss in the workshop. There will be exercises designed to introduce different approaches and technical possibilities. We’ll read each other’s work and talk about what makes a story compelling, how to give the reader what he or she needs, where to start, how to develop the story, and how to revise. The end goal is to create stories which move, entertain, captivate and reward both the reader and the writer.
This workshop is open to writers of all levels, as long as you’ve at least started a short story that you can bring to the workshop. To be considered, please submit up to 10 double-spaced pages of the opening of a short story, and a brief introduction telling me about yourself and your writing experience, goals and what you’d like from the workshop. Submissions should be a single file in .doc format with the title “AldenSub_YourName.doc”.
About Paulette Alden
Paulette Alden is the author of Feeding the Eagles, a short story collection (Graywolf Press); Crossing the Moon, a memoir (Penguin); and a novel, The Answer to Your Question (Radiator Press). Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Ploughshares, Stanford Magazine, the Antioch Review, the Mississippi Review, and others. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, where she was a Jones Lecturer in Creative Writing, Alden has taught memoir and fiction writing extensively, at the University of Minnesota, Carleton College, St. Olaf College, the Madeline Island School of the Arts, and for many years at the Key West Literary Seminar. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Bush Foundation Fellowship, a Loft-McKnight Award, and several Minnesota State Arts Board grants. Originally from South Carolina, Alden lives in Minneapolis, where she blogs on books and writing and critiques literary manuscripts via her website, paulettealden.com.
“Distilling the World: Writing the Short Story”
January 11-15, 2015