Hello. Is it us you’re looking for? Good. Good. Despite rumors to the contrary, the operators of this site are neither dead nor sacked, and they are (in fact) planning your doom a brand new series of Saturday Workshops and content posts for the 2019-2020 academic year. The first of those Saturday Workshops is just around the proverbial corner–assuming that corner is September 21st. Do you see it? Lurking. Waiting (a little too impatiently for our tastes, mind you). Standing outside your window with an (obviously) Bluetooth-capable Bose speaker over its head, blasting [insert modern-day romantic music here] like that one guy did in that movie long, long ago. He even wore a trench coat. It was pretty sweet. Do you know what else is sweet? Transitions.
In the first Saturday workshop of the new academic year, we will discuss what traits make a complex and compelling villain. Attendees will evaluate villains in film and literature and examine the often complicated relationship between antagonist and protagonist while using writing strategies to create their own caustic characters. Everyone leaves with a bad guy!
Saturday workshops are free and open to the public. Sometimes, water bottles and store-bought pastries spontaneously generate right there in the room.
What: Writing Vivid Villains with Jayme Cook
When: Saturday, September 21st from 10AM to 12PM
Where: GCC Main Campus, Room LA-141
Why:Give us your heart Attend the workshop. We’ll give you a pen We’ll help you craft a villain.
When: Wednesday, November 14th from 7:00 to 9:00PM
Where: GCC Main Campus, Room SU-104
Why: Money, vague threats involving Mountain Dew (see below)
The Poetry & Prose Slam is upon us, looming on the horizon like a bird or a sun or a hitchhiker you’re desperately trying to avoid locking eyes with. Well, it’s too late. We see you. Sitting there, all comfortable and “mobile” in your Ford F-150s and your Toyota Priuses and your non-descript mountain bikes. Listen, either you pull over now or we follow you back to your house, tip over your refrigerator, and soak all your dish towels in Mountain Dew Code Red.
What we’re trying to say here, figuratively, is that you should attend this event.
More than that, you should read and compete in this event. Bring your original and creative writing–poetry, short fiction or nonfiction, song lyrics, and any other genre we haven’t listed that you can read in about three minutes or less. Read it before our friendly, Mountain-Dew-drinking judges and guests, and then maybe win a little money. It’s not often we get paid for our creative work, after all, so take advantage.
In order to participate, you’ll need to fill out a simple entry form that you can download and print right here: Registration Form. If you forget to grab a form, no worries, we’ll have extra entry forms available at the event. The slam is open to everyone, student and non-student alike.
Whether it’s Negan laying down the law with Lucille, Luke looking into Anakin’s eyes for the first and the last time, or Harry confessing his love to Sally as the New Year’s Eve ball drops, these types of scenes carry great energy and purpose, but a heavy pen can lead to unwanted melodrama or sentimentality. In many ways, fight scenes, death scenes, and loves scenes are the hardest to write, but they are so often necessary for the stories we want to tell. In the “Fight Die Love” workshop, attendees will review and emulate techniques used by writing professionals from a diverse range of genres.
Saturday workshops are free and open to the public. Entirely unimpressive refreshments will probably be provided.
What & Who: Fight, Die, Love: The Hardest Scenes to Write, with Laura White
When: Saturday, November 3rd from 10:00AM to 12:00PM
Where: GCC Main Campus, Room LA-141
Why: Because it’s the last Saturday workshop for Fall semester, and you need one last fix to tide you over until February!
As everyone goes through the process of determining their Spring schedules and registering for classes, we’d like to highlight some of our special creative offerings. The first course we’d like to spotlight is CRW202 – Witness Writing. This is an online course, taught by Kimberly Williams. View the flyer below for more information, and contact Professor Williams for questions, or if you have any trouble registering.
Wallace Stegner is perhaps the best short story and novel writer you’ve never heard of – even more unusual for you AZ students, perhaps, because he wrote often of the Southwest. His novel Angle of Repose won the 1971 Pulitzer Prize. Another, The Spector Bird, won the National Book Award in 1977. His short stories were collected in 1990; three of them won O. Henry Prizes. (His literary agent at the time infamously told him to quit writing short stories before he used up all his “openings and closings” – sadly, Stegner followed her advice).
Most importantly for us creative writers, Stegner founded the Stanford Writing Program in 1945 (I’ve heard it said mostly in response to his objection to what he considered harsh techniques employed at Iowa Writer’s Workshop). He continued to teach at Stanford until his retirement in 1971. Graduates of that Stanford MFA program include Wendell Berry, Edward Abbey, Harriet Doerr, Tillie Olsen, Raymond Carver and Larry McMurtry. Stanford carries on Stegner’s legacy with the Wallace Stegner Fellowship, a prestigious award and position given out to writers at all stages of their career, without degree requirements or concern for genre. If you’re serious about your writing, view the link above and maybe set a goal for yourself.
Stegner “came of age” in an era when not many people thought you could teach or be taught creative writing (a good blog subject in and of itself?). In his short book On Teaching and Writing Fiction, Stegner offered these seven “rules of thumb” for writers (pp. 94-95):
Start in the middle of things; start in motion.
Stay in motion by not letting the summary intrude; keep the summary feeding into the scene in hints and driblets, by what Ipsen called the “uncovering” technique.
Never explain too much; a reader is offended if he cannot participate and use his mind and imagination, and a story loses much of its suspense the moment everything is explained.
Stay out of your story; pick a point of view and (especially in the short story) stick with it. Nobody has less right in your story than yourself.
Don’t show off in your style. The writing should match the characters and the situation, not you. This applies as well to obscenity and profanity as to other matters. Where character and situation call for them, they belong; elsewhere they may be a sign that the author is trying to catch someone’s attention.
Nothing is to be gained, except a breaking of the dramatic illusion, by attempts to find substitutes for the word “said” in dialogue tags. “Said” is a colorless word that disappears; elegant variations show up.
Stopping a story is as hard as saying goodnight. Learn to do it cleanly, without leftovers or repetitions.
I suggest you print these out and hang them up in a prominent spot in your writing area.
PS. Stegner’s eighth rule? “Revise! Revise! Revise!” (He says the difference between a good writer and a great writer is their ability to revise their own work and make it better.)
This post was contributed by Gary Lawrence, one of GCC’s English and Creative Writing faculty. Gary teaches online CRW courses for us, including CRW170 (Introduction to Fiction Writing) and CRW270 (Intermediate Fiction Writing), both of which he’s prepping for Spring 2019. View his courses, along with our other CRW offerings, here: GCC Find-A-Class.
The GCC Libraries seek your creative writing submissions on the theme “Magical Library.” Enter your flash fiction, short fiction, or poetry submissions for publication on the GCC Library website and a small prize. What is “magical” to you, and how might magic manifest (either literally or figuratively) in a library setting? Let your imagination loose! All genres welcome. The deadline is November 2nd.
Did you know that frogs, like birds, have migratory patterns? It’s true. Each year, as summer gives way to autumn, frogs travel north. Sometimes for business meetings, and other times for academic conferences and awards ceremonies and predatory debt collecting and spas and definitely-not-extra-marital-affairs. Did you hear that, Diane? Definitely. Not. Extra. Marital. Affairs. You’re being ridiculous. Call the hotel.
Aaaaaaand, we’re back for the 2018-2019 academic year. If you’re a newly-subscribed follower of the blog, welcome! If you’ve been with us for a while, welcome back! If you have no idea why you’re on this page or receiving an email notification, consider our meeting destiny/fate/true love and be welcome too. For our first event of the year, Jeff Sanger is going to put on a free Saturday workshop. Description and details below. Hope to see you there!
Certainly, you have an idea who your story is about, but do you know what your protagonist’s favorite color is? If they were sentenced to death, what would they order for their last meal? Trivial considerations? Perhaps. But the better you, the author, know your characters, the more fully they come through on the page for your reader. And readers across all genres love vivid characters. But how do you learn more about your characters? Can your characters be further revealed to you as you write about them? Many writers believe they can.
Even if you know your characters well, the other challenge, of course, is delivering this information to your audience, making sure they understand who your characters really are. Page after page of exposition (telling) about your characters typically leads to a disinterested audience that puts the story down unfinished, that outcome every writer fears. How do you show your readers who your characters are?
Visit our characterization themed Saturday workshop to implement some proven techniques to learn more about your characters and bring them to life on the page.
You’ve got a story to tell! You know what you want the audience to take away from your work. The question is, how do you keep them engaged along the way? Whether you’re writing a short story, a novel, or even a play, tightening up your plot using the dramatic arc as a guide can lead to greater reader engagement with your work. In this workshop we’ll learn about how the dramatic arc works and how you can use this knowledge to create a riveting plot in any work of fiction.
What & Who: Using the Dramatic Arc – How to Keep Your Audience on the Edge of Their Seats, with Jeff Sanger