Classy Talk with Peter Mountford | Spring 2014

Posted Mon, 4/21/2014 - 8:57am by  |  Category:

What is the title of your class?
Great Short Stories: An Advanced Workshop

People should take this class if…
If you’re needing some feedback on a story, and want to read and critique stories by others.

Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?
Sure thing! I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and I’m even on LinkedIn, which I check religiously … once or twice a year.

Are any of your works online and available to the public?
On my website, you can find links to various essays and short stories I’ve published. My novels are available as ebooks, too, but that costs money.

What excites you about the material you’re teaching?
Short stories are so, so difficult. There’s nowhere to hide the flaws. There’s also a lot of possibilities with stories—you can break the rules in a way that would be weird in a novel. It’s very exciting.

Tell us a bit about your previous teaching experience.
I’ve taught at Hugo House—many, many classes. Dozens. Also at the University of Washington, a bit, and through Seattle Arts and Lectures, where I’ve been a WITS instructor in high schools for many years.

What do you like best about teaching at Hugo House?
So much of my social life happens at Hugo House, or with people who I know from Hugo House. Writing is lonely and difficult, and it’s very important to me, personally and creatively, to have a community of people who are bouncing ideas off me, and off of whom I can bounce my own ideas.

What’s the best piece of writing you’ve read in the past year?
Probably the Ben Fountain novel Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. There’ve been some incredible essays, too, though, including John Jeremiah Sullivan’s “Mister Lytle.” Also the short story “Intervention” by Jill McCorkle; I read it years ago, but came back to it recently and it’s just incredible.

What books made you want to write?
Birds of America by Lorrie Moore. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson. A bunch of others.

If there was one piece of advice you could give an aspiring writer, what would it be?
If you don’t like the process, don’t start, because the process is everything you have. Tangible rewards are fleeting.

If you were to meet your favorite writer in person later today, what would you say to them?
That’d be Nabokov, and I’d say: “What is the secret to resurrection?” No, I’d ask him how he found the energy for it all. He was relentless, as a writer, absolutely relentless.

What are you reading now? If you could pair it with a beverage (alcoholic or otherwise), what would you choose?
I’m reading Antonya Nelson’s forthcoming collection of stories. Very beautiful and surprising, very vulnerable, too. Drink-wise: a good bourbon, I’d say.