WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT INFLUENCE

by K. L. Cook
Spalding MFA Faculty, Fiction

IMG_5B702B6CCEA7-1As both a writer and teacher, I’ve been obsessed with the question of influence, both nonliterary and literary. It’s informed my scholarly work as well as my fiction and nonfiction, not to mention the kinds of courses I’ve designed, such as Forms of Fiction, Sudden Fiction, Short Story Cycle, Literature of the American Dream, Shakespeare, The American West in Film and Literature, and Family Systems in Film and Literature. A couple of years ago, I taught a special topics course for MFA students at Iowa State University entitled The Ecstasy of Influence, in which the students and I explored what we talk about when we talk about literary influence. It is one of my favorite courses—and one that helped me reshape the kinds of questions I now focus on for most of my other creative writing and literature courses. Continue reading “WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT INFLUENCE”

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EMBRACING THE OUTLINE: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Spreadsheet

by John Pipkin
Spalding MFA faculty, Fiction

pipkinblogquoteThe outline is one of the most misunderstood parts of the creative process. For many writers, the very idea of outlining seems antithetical to creativity itself. However, this misperception overlooks the creative liberation that can come from outlining (and re-outlining) your project as it develops. I write novels that involve multiple characters with multiple interwoven storylines unfolding at different times and places because these are the kinds of stories that I like to read. But these narratives can easily fall to chaos, and so I rely heavily on outlining my work before, during, and after each draft. I outline everything that I write, long and short, complex and simple.   Continue reading “EMBRACING THE OUTLINE: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Spreadsheet”

LIVING IN LIMBO: How to Stay Focused & Motivated on Large Projects

By Sam Zalutsky
Spalding MFA faculty, Screenwriting

Right now I’m finishing up Seaside, a microbudget feature which I wrote, directed, and produced. I’m so eager and excited for people to see it. But the filmmaking process is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. Maybe it’s a little like what happens when you are waiting for a book to be published. Postproduction can be particularly challenging. The immediacy and control of pre-production and shooting are replaced with a much slower and less intense schedule. And sometimes it feels like nothing is happening. Argh! Continue reading “LIVING IN LIMBO: How to Stay Focused & Motivated on Large Projects”

REFLECTIONS ON TRAVEL WRITING

by Roy Hoffman
Spalding MFA faculty, fiction & creative nonfiction

Roy_BlogImageWhen you pack your bags for your next trip, whether a few hours from home or as far away, to an American traveler, as Buenos Aires, Rome, or Edinburgh, take along your travel writer’s sensibility. You’ll already have the tools in place—pen and paper, laptop and camera—so making a record of where you go, what you see, eat, and learn, is not a practical but perceptual challenge.  Our senses become heightened by the excitement of travel, the allure of different landscapes, languages and foods. As writers we note it all in colorful detail in our journals and e-mails home. But how can we shape this material into articles or personal essays for a larger audience? Here are some tips—and questions—to keep in mind. Continue reading “REFLECTIONS ON TRAVEL WRITING”

TAPPING INTO THE “FOREVER EMPTY”: A Conversation between Mentor & Mentee

by Gabriel Jason Dean
Spalding MFA faculty, Screenwriting
cassie headshot

Cassie Brower

Spalding Screenwriting student, Cassie Brower, is currently the Director of Original Programming at Disney Junior in Los Angeles. DISNEY JUNIOR LOGOCassie has overseen the hit shows Sofia the First, The Lion Guard, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Mickey and the Roadster Racers, Sheriff Callie’s Wild West, as well as several short series. I had the pleasure of working with Cassie as her mentor during her first semester at Spalding.  We inevitably discussed time-management and daily practice during our time together. And since those are topics I’m asked about by almost all the Spalding students I mentor, I reckoned a blog post was in order. But rather than just espousing what works for me, I thought it might also be beneficial to hear from Cassie, arguably one of Spalding’s busiest students.  Continue reading “TAPPING INTO THE “FOREVER EMPTY”: A Conversation between Mentor & Mentee”

R.E.M., Dinosaur Jr., Self-Actualization

by Shane McCrae
Spalding MFA Faculty, Poetry

Probably you’re too young to remember this—or were too sane at the time to care—but back in the early 90s, when R.E.M. were considered the best band in the world by more than a few people, back when they had just released Out of Time, both the band and their fans began expressing anxiety about the band returning to their roots—i.e., the people wanted R.E.M. to make an up-tempo album again, a rocking, electric album, and the band wanted to make the people happy. Let’s set aside the fact that R.E.M.’s first album, Murmur, while marginally more up-tempo than Out of Time and definitely more up-tempo than Automatic for the People, was in only the vaguest sense a rock record—R.E.M. gets very little credit for having started out as one of America’s finest early purveyors of pop-inflected post-punk obscurities—and concentrate instead on what happened when R.E.M. actually made the record the people seemed to want: Monster. Real talk: I hate Monster. Continue reading “R.E.M., Dinosaur Jr., Self-Actualization”