Ann Hood is the author of fifteen books including the best-selling novels The Knitting Circle, The Obituary Writer, and most recently, An Italian Wife. Her acclaimed memoir, Comfort: A Journey Through Grief, explores her path toward healing after the loss of her five-year-old daughter, Grace, who died suddenly in 2002 from a virulent form of strep. Comfort was named one of the top ten non-fiction books of 2008 by Entertainment Weekly. Her essays and short stories have been published in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Tin House and on The New York Times Op-Ed page, and have been anthologized in Best American Food Writing, Best American Travel Writing, and Best American Spiritual Writing Awards. The winner of two Pushcart Prizes and the Paul Bowles Prize for Short Fiction, Hood is also the editor of Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting and teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing program at The New School in New York City.
Flannery O’Connor said, “Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction.” In this workshop, we will get dusty together! We will read and workshop your pages, of course, but we will also read published stories together to uncover why they work. We’ll discuss why and how fiction is about everything human. And I will give you writing exercises to build on our discussions of writing.
Richard Russo is the author of seven novels, a memoir, and one short story collection. His fifth book, Empire Falls, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2002 and was later adapted for television by HBO based on Russo’s teleplay, earning him an Emmy nomination. He also wrote the novel, Nobody’s Fool, which was adapted into a critically acclaimed film featuring Paul Newman. Known for his insightful, often humorous depictions of gritty northeastern towns and the characters that inhabit them, Russo has said that he wants, “that which is hilarious and that which is heartbreaking to occupy the same territory in books,” because he thinks, “they very often occupy the same territory in life, much as we try to separate them.” He taught English at Colby College for many years and lives with his wife in Maine.
The sweet spot of any workshop is where generosity of spirit and basic good will intersect with intellectual rigor. In other words, leave snark at home on the shelf next to flattery. Try not to think of the workshop as Richard Russo’s but rather as ours. Come prepared to talk. And to listen. I’ll direct discussion when necessary but try my best not to manipulate its conclusions. Most manuscripts (time permitting) will get anywhere from a paragraph to a page of “public edit”: that is, a line-by-line edit that focuses on language issues.
Akhil Sharma immigrated to the United States when he was eight, and studied at Princeton University, where he earned his B.A. in public policy at the Woodrow Wilson School. He was awarded a Stegner Fellowship to the writing program at Stanford, where he won several O. Henry Prizes. His first novel, An Obedient Father, won the 2001 PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2001 Whiting Writers’ Award, and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His second novel, Family Life, is mostly autobiographical and was published to critical acclaim in 2014. He has also published stories in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Best American Short Stories anthology, and The O. Henry Prize story anthology. Sharma is an assistant professor in the creative writing MFA program at Rutgers University-Newark.
Part of learning to successfully complete stories and novels is learning to see what are the likely problems one is bound to encounter. This ability to see around corners requires both self-understanding (what am I imaginatively sympathetic towards and so likely to be able to bring to life) and an awareness of structure (what is needed in fiction to hold and develop a reader’s interest). The purpose of this course is to make the student aware of both of these. The typical course day will involve a close reading of famous works, a discussion of writing exercises, and a discussion of the writing sample submitted for the course. There is enormous satisfaction in thinking deeply and working hard and this course will provide both.
Andre Dubus III is the author of six books, including The New York Times bestsellers, House of Sand and Fog, The Garden of Last Days (soon to be a major motion picture), and his memoir, Townie (a #4 New York Times-bestseller). His most recent book, Dirty Love, was published in 2013 and has been listed as a New York Times Notable Book, a 2013 Notable Fiction choice from the Washington Post, and a Kirkus Starred Best Book of 2013. Dubus has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Magazine Award in Fiction, two Pushcart Prizes, and is a 2012 recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. His books are published in over twenty-five languages, and he is a professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Master novelist and short story writer, Richard Bausch says: ” Do not think. Dream. If you believe you are thinking when you write, make yourself stop thinking. You are trying to tap a part of yourself that is closest to the dreaming side…” I could not agree more — dream, dream, dream it through. I also believe this holds true whether you’re writing fiction or creative nonfiction/memoir, for when we explore our lives through the subjective lens of our own memories, we’re still dreaming our way back. But how – technically speaking – does one dream fully and honestly with mere words? Come to this workshop, and I’ll try to lay this out with a bit of lecture, in-class creative writing exercises, and a constructive critique of what comes out of you, one honest word at a time.
Dani Shapiro is the best-selling author of the memoirs, Devotion and Slow Motion, and five novels including, Black & White and Family History. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, and has been widely anthologized. Her new memoir, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, was called “one of those rare books that is both beautiful and useful,” by journalist Susan Orlean. Shapiro is a contributing editor for Conde Nast Traveler and lives with her family in Litchfield County, Connecticut.
To write a memoir is to tell a story honed and chiseled from the material of your memory. This story might center around an event, a relationship, a year, a journey, an illness, a grieving process, an addiction, or some other aspect of your life, but it’s crucial to remember that memoir is not journaling, it’s not confession, it’s not spilling the beans (in the words of Annie Dillard, you may not let it rip) but rather, it’s an attempt to make meaning, to make sense, of whatever it is that has happened. In a safe and discerning environment, we will read one another’s work and ask questions of it. What is the story trying to tell? Where does it hold our interest? Where does it seem to be hiding from itself? Participants in this workshop will come away inspired, full of courage, and with a strong sense of how to move forward in their work.
Liz Van Hoose offers editorial, book doctoring, and writing services to authors, agents, and trade book publishers. For more than a decade, she worked in the editorial departments of Viking Penguin and Alfred A. Knopf, where she edited a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, including works by Martin Clark, Ron Currie Jr., Kim Edwards, Alex Gilvarry, Garrison Keillor, William Kittredge, Robert Love, Dan Morrison, Haruki Murakami, Jim Shepard, Amor Towles, Jessica Maria Tuccelli, and Danielle Trussoni.
“Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the storyteller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end,” wrote the late, great William Maxwell. This distinctive workshop will cover the fundamentals of rearranging things in a novel. Pairing peer-to-peer feedback with guidance from a book industry perspective, our intimate group of six participants will share and discuss each manuscript. A complete novel is necessary for acceptance. Applicants should submit the first 10 pages of their work, plus an author bio, novel synopsis, and a brief description of what they hope to gain from this session. The total submission should be no more than 15 pages. Aspen Words will be in touch with all applicants via email in early March to request full novels, which will be reviewed before making final decisions on acceptances. The workshop-ready manuscripts will be collected in late April.
Hannah Tinti is a writer, editor, and teacher. Her 2008 short story collection, Animal Crackers, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her best-selling novel, The Good Thief, published the same year, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, recipient of the American Library Association’s Alex Award, winner of the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award. In 2002, she co-founded the award-winning magazine One Story, and for the past 12 years has been its Editor in Chief. In 2009, she received the PEN/Nora Magid Award for excellence in editing and in 2014, One Story won the AWP Prize for Best Small Press. Hannah co-founded Wishing Stone Workshops and the Sirenland Writers Conference in Italy with Dani Shapiro and Michael Maren. She currently teaches at Columbia University’s MFA program and at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. She grew up in Salem, Massachusetts and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
This innovative, generative class will use the natural world to help you find the words you’ve been looking for. Listen to babbling brooks, write with bird feathers, and literally stop to smell the flowers. Each day will explore different elements of storytelling, through craft lectures, close readings, and writing exercises to stimulate your imagination, spark new ideas, and make you notice the world around you. Whether you’re a first time writer or a pro looking to reinvigorate your work, you’ll leave this course with a notebook full of new pages and valuable tools to bring into your daily practice.