Angela Jane Fountas is teaching a class, “Diagramming Stories” at Richard Hugo House this spring. She took some time to answer some questions for us.
What is the title of your class?
People should take this class because?
You need to read to write, and, most importantly, read like a writer, which is what we’ll be doing in this class: looking really closely at contemporary short stories by Aimee Bender, George Saunders, Alice Munro, and others. Writers learn, in part, via osmosis. Reading closely helps, so does imitating (which we’ll also do in class).
What are you reading right now?
Elena Ferrante’s novels. I started with her most recent, My Brilliant Friend, which is brilliant, and now I’m working my way up from her first, Troubling Love, which is troubling. I’m also reading Tenth of December, George Saunders new collection of stories.
What excites you about the material you’re teaching?
Every story is made up of words, sentences, and paragraphs — and yet a George Saunders story is completely different from an Alice Munro story. It’s a thrill to see how each writer does it, “it” being style and voice. I just love picking apart tense, point of view, characterization, dialogue, even white space to get closer to a brilliant piece of fiction.
What do you like best about teaching at Hugo House?
It’s a house with rooms, including a kitchen and bathroom with bathtub, so it’s like a home, which is where a lot of writers write every day. And we’re so lucky to have a house for writers in Seattle; even New Yorkers are jealous.
What book(s) made you want to write?
Monkeys by Susan Minot, Break It Down by Lydia Davis, Raymond Carver’s collections, Jane Eyre, The Portrait of a Lady, Madame Bovary
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
To throw all the rules out the window when you sit down to write and to read, read, read.
If you could have coffee with any author living or dead, who would it be?
Mavis Gallant, one of the great still-living short story writers who made her debut in The New Yorker in 1951 and has since published over 100 stories within its pages.
What’s your favorite book? If you could pair it with a glass of wine or a pint of beer, what would you choose?
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle with a cold Bitburger