Writing is magic, as anyone who’s ever loved a book can tell you. Writing is also work. In this course we will use readings of contemporary short stories, discussions of craft elements, and a workshop of students’ own stories to explore the fundamentals and the complexities of fiction writing. We will chase the magic while we’re learning how it’s done.
Students can expect readings and discussion of short stories by contemporary masters of the form, extensive feedback on two fiction submissions, and short prompts and exercises to get the writing engine going. By the end of our six weeks together, students will have a clearer sense of themselves as writers and of where their future work might take them.
- thoughtful and thorough feedback on two fiction submissions, and a sense of where these pieces might head next in revision
- a one-on-one meeting with the instructor to discuss these pieces and the student’s path as a writer
- a role in a lively, engaging, and productive discussion of the craft of fiction
- training in attentive reading of published fiction and works-in-progress
Week 0: Welcome; scheduling; introduction to workshopping
Week 1: Beginnings and endings, workshop #1
Week 2: Scene and dialogue, workshop #2
Week 3: Story form and structure, workshop #3
Week 4: Character, workshop #4
Week 5: Point of view, workshop #5
Week 6: Setting and Atmosphere, workshop #6
*no class November 21st
Clare Beams’ story collection, We Show What We Have Learned, was a Kirkus Best Debut of 2016; was longlisted for the Story Prize; and was a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award. Her fiction appears in One Story, Electric Literature, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Ecotone, and elsewhere, and has received special mention in Best American Short Stories. A 2014 NEA fellow in prose, she was the Bernard O’Keefe scholar in fiction at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2014. She lives in Pittsburgh.
“Professor Beams was very passionate about fiction writing and encouraged us to feel the same…She deserves a red carpet award for the amazing feedback she gave to us on every writing assignment.”
“Professor Beams is really an excellent teacher who invests a great deal of effort and time into helping her students to improve their writing. She constantly provides constructive feedback and is extremely engaging within the classroom. She also provides students with carefully selected material to help us expand our knowledge of literature. I have really enjoyed taking her class and appreciate all the guidance she has provided over this semester.”
“Clare was one of the kindest and most encouraging professors I have ever had.”
“Clare Beams has been my most trusted reader for the last ten years. I hope she will remain my reader for life. I frankly don’t know what my work would be without her. We have very different styles, and yet she understands what I’m trying to do—often before I do—and pushes it to its highest art. No one will read your work with more attention, more thought, more humble but spot-on suggestion than Clare Beams. Run, don’t walk, for the chance to work with her.”
“These stories are at once spooky and lush, eerie and deeply felt, ghostly but also vibrantly alive. Clare Beams is a magician, and each of these stories is a muscular, artful haunting.”
“Clare Beams’s invigorating stories are brave, inventive, lyrical, and just a little bit nasty...”
“Even when the stories draw from the tradition of fabulism, they always feel wholly Beams’s own, from the unflagging elegance of the prose to the wisdom with which Beams approaches the complex emotional terrain her characters navigate. . . . It is this gap between what the world seems and what is that Beams tackles so memorably in this collection. . . . A richly imagined and impeccably crafted debut.”
“Stories as well executed as these are their own reward, but it’s also clear from the capaciousness on display here that Ms. Beams has novels’ worth of worlds inside her.”
“Clare Beams has written a dazzling story collection—as if, by a rare sort of magic, Alice Munro and Shirley Jackson had conspired together to imagine a female/feminist voice for the twenty-first century that is wickedly sharp-eyed, wholly unpredictable, and wholly engaging.”