(originally published 2012)
I’ve heard that one of the great parts of being a dad is that you can recapture what it’s like to be a kid again. Relive your childhood.
But I don’t think my childhood ever ended. Not really. Not where it counts. I think it’s more like watching how my childhood got started. Because the processes I developed back then are still the processes I use right now.
Continue reading “AN INFINITELY RECURSIVE CHILDHOOD”
As 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”
The 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”
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”
I’m a big fan of ambiguous endings. I have no problem with being left in the middle of things in the last scene. In fact, I find pleasure in lingering with a range of possibilities after the final page is turned. I have no quarrel with a novel or memoir that closes with its main character teetering on the brink of change—rather than safely ensconced on the other side of it. Continue reading “NO EXIT: When Endings Disappoint”
When 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”
By Kira Obolensky
Spalding MFA faculty, playwriting
Greetings, fellow writers. I write to you from the distant fields of my own particular revision process; the mud pit of the second draft. Most of the writers I know talk about revision without saying the word. When I ask a writer friend about her revision, her response is, “Knee deep. I’m putting the damn thing in first person now.” Continue reading “RE-VISION: Wright-ing; Erasure, Embroidering; the tweak”
I am struck by how many of my students write beautifully in the midst of very dense lives. Some are working extremely hard on other jobs, some have young families, or run their own businesses, or care for elderly parents.
I ask them when they write. Some get up at four AM, or write after everyone has gone to sleep. Some write on their lunch hours. Continue reading “WRITING WHILE LIVING”
“…reminiscing about my origins as a writer is not just a nostalgic act, but one that helps me to keep sight of the reasons why I write.”
I’m surprised by people who think of writing as drudgery, an onerous task we take on to punish ourselves only because of our unforgiving work ethics. For me, the need to write goes back to my childhood, when writing was just another game, like playacting or drawing. Writing, when I was young, was a pleasure, a refuge, solace, a chance to play, with no need to demand perfection from myself, and writing as an adult, is, much of the time, an attempt to recapture that experience. Continue reading “GROWING UP WRITING”
By Beth Ann Bauman
Spalding MFA Faculty, Writing for Children & Young Adults
There are truisms about life we all accept—e.g., rejection and loss are painful, success feels great, grief is sad, and so on. And undoubtedly you’ll include universal truisms in your work because you want to reflect life accurately. But what’s more interesting and real are when characters and events surprise us in some way. Because here’s another truism—life is strange. Continue reading “CRAFTING SURPRISE IN FICTION”