In this workshop, writers will learn how to use specific language and clarity to construct ambiguity and mystery within their work—important components to keep your reader interested. Methods of generating new work, revision, and reading in ways that helps your writing will be discussed. We will look at short stories by Ottessa Moshfegh, Brad Watson, Alice Munro, Kazuo Ishiguro, and James Salter, among others, and analyze the small, important moves and techniques these writers employ to create a sense of the uncanny within their fiction. Each student will be workshopped twice (either two stories or two excerpts from a longer work-in-progress) and have one private phone conference with the instructor to discuss writing style, goals, and areas for improvement. This workshop may be best suited for writers with previous workshop experience, though previous workshop experience is not necessary.
By the end of the course, writers will have developed a deeper understanding of the craft techniques required to write clear and compelling short fiction.
- Intensive peer and instructor critiques on two stories
- One private phone conference with instructor to discuss writing style, goals, areas for improvement
- A submission strategy for one of the workshopped stories
Week 1: Clear Openings/Discuss Useful Workshop Responses/Discuss Watson
Week 2: Making Familiar Unfamiliar/Workshop/Discuss Moshfegh
Week 3: Specificity with Movement/Workshop/Discuss Ishiguro
Week 4: Clarity and Building Mystery/Workshop/Discuss Salter
Week 5: Dense and Strange, Still Clear/Workshop/Discuss Munro
Week 6: Revision/Starting New/Workshop/Discuss Alling
Alex Higley is the author of Cardinal and Other Stories (longlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction) and Old Open. He has been previously published by Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, New World Writing, PANK, Fanzine, and elsewhere. He lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife and dog.
“I love the mind at work in these wonderfully strange stories about so-called ordinary life. They go right to the heart of how uncanny, even bizarre, ordinary life really is, if you’re paying attention. This is not ‘absurdist’ work. It’s ultra-realism. It’s evidence of a new, fresh voice— intelligent, strange, deeply familiar, oddly funny, pleasantly disturbing. Add Higley’s stories to my favorites.”
“Alex Higley’s OLD OPEN is an adventure and a riddle; a winding tale that’s equal parts Coen Brothers and Denis Johnson. A gruff, generous, insightful, very funny book, and I simply loved it.”
“With echoes of DeLillo, OLD OPEN is a deceptively simple novel that rebels against modern disillusionment, capturing nothing less than the texture and flux of life. Higley’s subjects include the gap between information and meaning, aliens and alienation, the desire to communicate and the need to feel understood. The result is a funny, moving, and hopeful novel.”