“In the end, what's any good reader really hoping for? That spark. That spell. That journey.” - Victor Lavalle, author of The Changeling
This six-week fiction workshop will immerse students in the fundamental building blocks of storytelling—character, plot, conflict, language, and setting—that will take the reader on that journey. Writers who can master these fundamentals will be well-positioned to deliver compelling, thought-provoking, evocative stories. Students can expect writing prompts (focused on either a particular building block or a combination of building blocks) as well as reading assignments from a variety of great authors. Writers will have the opportunity to workshop twice—either new work both times, or a revision of the original submission. We will also meet one-on-one (either in person, via Skype, or by phone) to discuss your work and your writing goals.
This workshop is for writers ambitious about taking their work to the next level by learning the essentials of good, clear, powerful storytelling.
- a strong and concrete notion of how to improve your writing
- a deft and thorough knowledge of the fundamentals of writing fiction, including character, plot, conflict, language, and setting
- a clear sense of how to use language to define character and evoke emotion
- a focused sense of how to be a relentless self-editor
- insightful and thorough critiques of two fiction submissions
- a one-on-one session with the instructor to discuss writing goals and trouble spots
- weekly readings that will serve as excellent examples of the building blocks of fiction
Week 1: Introductions, class structure, class goals
Week 2: How to define characters
Week 3: Creating compelling plots
Week 4: Conflict is EVERYTHING
Week 5: Settings are characters, too
Week 6: Putting weeks 1-5 together with relentless self-editing
Joe Okonkwo's debut novel Jazz Moon was published by Kensington Books in 2016. It won the Publishing Triangle's Edmund White Award for debut fiction and was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. His short story "Cleo" was a Pushcart Prize nominee. His stories have been published or are forthcoming in Shotgun Honey, Best Gay Stories 2015, Cooper Street, and Storychord. Upcoming work will appear in The New Engagement and Chelsea Station. Joe serves as Prose Editor for Newtown Literary and Editor of Best Gay Stories 2017 published by Lethe Press. He lives in Queens, New York.
"A passionate, alive, and original novel about love, race, and jazz in 1920s Harlem and Paris—a moving story of traveling far to find oneself."
"JAZZ MOON is an unexpected and original grand romance: sweeping, evocative, and colorful. Okonkwo is an author to enjoy now and watch in the future."
"Joe Okonkwo is an incredibly unique new voice and a very familiar one at the same time. His haunting style is reminiscent of Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Gabriel García Márquez. JAZZ MOON is an elegantly written gift and a stunning literary debut. The characters are so vibrant and precise! The delicate plot about race, jazz, betrayal, and sex in early Harlem and Paris snatched me and held me hostage until the very last sentence."
"Joe's attention to glorious detail in his own writing transfers over to his work with other writers. He's often able to identify the little things that make a huge difference in a story, making a story hit home more effectively with readers."
"I've participated in creative writing workshops with Joe Okonkwo in different settings: we were in workshop classes together as we pursued our MFAs, and now we are part of a small workshop of peers who meet monthly. Joe is a beautiful writer and a generous, intelligent reader. He is always honest, but kind and helpful in his critiques. And he pays attention to the details—which is so important in a workshop. I would highly recommend taking a workshop with Joe."
"As a writer, I value craft. And, Joe, as an award-winning author, accomplished short-story writer, and editor, knows how to help you effectively put your best efforts on the page. He inspires by the creative, out-of-the-box examples of literature he has you read, and also highly insightful writing prompts that help you explore all dimensions of craft, from the surface to subtext of character, scene, setting, dialogue, and plot. Quite simply, Joe is a fantastic instructor with a kind, warm-hearted style, yet he also challenges you to dig deep with your writing. I highly recommend his class."