Classy Talk with Jeff Bender

Posted Fri, 3/08/2013 - 10:33pm by  |  Category:

Jeff Bender is teaching a class, “Short-Short Stories and Vignettes” at Richard Hugo House this spring. He took some time to answer some questions for us. 

What is the title of your class?           

Short-Short Stories and Vignettes

People should take this class because?           

. . . they are looking to make the bold leap from poetic prose to prose with an arc. Also because they want to strengthen and celebrate their short game. It is a wonderful, liberating, and immediate form.

Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?   

What are you reading right now?                       

I’m reading A River Runs through It by Norman Maclean. In the exciting queue are A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen and The Scarlet Letter. And I keep Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara in my bag.

What excites you about the material you’re teaching?

It’s doable in a class session. One can write an impactful vignette or a series of related vignettes in a relatively short period of time. One a day. The form is such that my students can create a small portfolio over the course of the class.

What do you like best about teaching at Hugo House?           

I love Hugo House. I live in Bellingham and teach in Mt. Vernon, and I’m finding there is nothing like it. Hugo House really gets it, and it gets me. It’s one place where I feel like I’ve received more than I’ve given. I am as much a colleague to my students as I am a teacher. My Hugo House students are dedicated, well read, polite, ambitious, humble, and curious. There is a feeling that’s hard to describe when I enter the Hugo House — it’s a subtle reminder that writing matters, it matters a lot, and that I belong.

What book(s) made you want to write?           

  • Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver
  • The Heidi Chronicles by Wendy Wasserstein
  • The Zoo Story by Edward Albee
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • Hurlyburly by David Rabe
  • The Homecoming by Harold Pinter
  • Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
  • The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?           

“Convict yourself,” which Amy Hempel transcribed from Gordon Lish.

If you could have coffee with any author living or dead, who would it be?           

Harold Pinter

What’s your favorite book? If you could pair it with a glass of wine or a pint of beer, what would you choose?

End Zone by Don DeLillo — paired with a skunked Coors Light