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What makes a novel compelling? From the acclaimed albeit quiet literary novel to the mega best-selling, page-turning thriller, these books share a certain hard-to-define quality that pave the way to their success. Often the key to this success is attributable to that elusive thing called voice, which we will focus on in this session. We will also discuss other basic elements of craft, including point of view, plot, structure, and, of course, a dollop of serendipity. The session will include a general discussion of the state of contemporary fiction as well as some brief writing exercises.
Every person in the world is interesting enough to be the subject of a 6,000 word magazine profile. You just have to ask the right questions. In this workshop, I’ll teach you how to write and research a compelling profile—of your mom, your favorite celebrity, or the guy behind the counter at the grocery store. The process of digging into an identity, and extracting the telling details that make a person who they are, will teach you a lot about writing—and even more about the human condition.
Designed for fiction writers who have completed a novel—or nonfiction writers who have an idea for a book—this presentation sets out the best ways to contact agents or publishers, what to include when reaching out, and how to make sure the material is ready for outside review.
Imagine it: An evocative, complete short story in 1000 words or less. This session will focus on flash fiction, the form taking online publishing by storm. Tara Laskowski, longtime editor of the flash fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly, will define this type of writing and its many forms—from microfiction to novellas-in-flash—and walk participants through some of the rules for crafting your own tiny stories.
Writing a memoir that’s candid, truthful, and raw is painful. Adding humor that augments and balances—but doesn’t distract from or bury the narrative—is mind-boggling. But if you want readers to go the distance with you, humor is one of the most effective tools to keep them by your side. It gives them a moment to relax, laugh, and gather themselves before continuing. Humor also bonds readers to you, your story, and characters. In this workshop, you’ll learn why memoir needs humor, the types of humor that work—and those that don’t—how to find humor in description, action, and dialogue. And perhaps most important: When to back away from a laugh.
Hooking your readers with a killer opening—that’s a must. But how do you get them to turn not just the first page but the next too? and then the next? …and the next? Crafting suspense may seem like the special province of crime fiction writers, but literary writers and genre writers both can profit from heightening tension, escalating conflict, tossing in the unexpected left turn, and generally keeping readers focused on the idea that “something is going to happen,” (to borrow the title of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine’s weekly blog). This session draws on work by writers including Patricia Highsmith, Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates, and Scott Turow to illustrate various techniques for incorporating suspense into your own work.
A candid hopeful discussion of trade book publishing—because no matter how much technology changes, some things remain the same, and primary among them is humanity’s need to organize the world into stories. Stories tell us who we are, help us make sense of what surrounds us. This conversation will provide insights into how to get your own stories to the widest possible readership, to touch as many lives as possible.