Classy Talk with Mary Lane Potter

Posted Tue, 4/02/2013 - 11:11pm by  |  Category:

Mary Lane Potter is teaching a class, “When to Show and When to Tell” at Richard Hugo House this spring. She took some time to answer some questions for us.

What is the title of your class?

When to Show and When to Tell

People should take this class because?

The more tools you have, the more control you have. The more control you have, the more freedom you have. Gaining a new tool or new way of looking at how narratives are put together can release fresh approaches or energize your creativity.  Plus, the readings are great and this class will radically change how you think about stories and how to tell them

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

Author page:


What are you reading right now?

Just finished Penelope Lively’s MOON TIGER and Jim Harrison’s THE RIVER SWIMMER.  Next up: Re-reading Gaston Bachelard’s THE POETICS OF SPACE and a new novel I haven’t found yet but hope to soon because a night without reading is a night lost.

What excites you about the material you’re teaching?

I love to watch how people tell with such liveliness and how they break all the writing rules in order to break our hearts and crack our heads open.

What do you like best about teaching at Hugo House?

Though I’ve taught many years and in many formats and venues, this will be my first class at Hugo House and I’m very excited–not least because it’s my nieghborhood and it feels like home to me in that way as well as literary ways.

What books made you want to write?

  • Nathanael Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter –broke my young heart
  • George Eliot, Middlemarch –opened my mind
  • Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov –cracked the world open
  • The Bible –seriously! Characters even Shakespeare envied and incredible storytelling.

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

Once, after a workshop, after everybody had trashed one of the first stories I wrote that felt “real” to me (not the work of someone trying to write, working at writing), and I was on the verge of tears or more likely crying but in denial about it, Rick Russo pulled me aside, looked straight at me, and said, “This is YOUR story.  You know this story.”  That was all it took.  Him seeing that on the page.  That story (after many revisions) became the first chapter in my first novel, and I still love it.

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

Eva Figes, Clarice Lispector, and William and Catherine Blake

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

Leslie Marmon Silko, CEREMONY–with a cupped handful of spring water or Toni Morrison, SONG OF SOLOMON–with a glass of St. Emilion