What is the title of your class?
People should take this class if…
they are writing short stories or novels and would like to learn how to create an opening scene that will grab editors’ interest, followed by scenes that will sustain it. The best way to learn to write is by doing it and getting responses from readers and professionals, so it’s important to learn to look critically at your own fiction: What works? What can be improved? How?
Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?
I tweet @nancykress and am on Facebook, but not very much of either one. Send me an email through my website.
What excites you about the material you’re teaching?
I genuinely enjoy helping stories get better. Over the years (I have been doing this since the early Triassic), many of my students have gone on to publish professionally.
Tell us a bit about your previous teaching experience.
I have taught fiction writing at the college level and at many of the various writing workshops that spring up in the summer like mushrooms after rain (Clarion, Carnegie Writer’s Conference, Taos Toolbox, Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, Sail for Success, etc.) In 2008, I was a visiting lecturer at the University of Leipzig, Germany, for a semester. For sixteen years, I was the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine.
What do you like best about teaching at Hugo House?
Students are interested and responsive. Also, coffee is available.
What’s the best piece of writing you’ve read in the past year?
The most interesting thing I’ve read recently is a nonfiction book with a jaw-breaking title: Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From the Sopranos and the Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad. It’s about the evolution of the anti-hero on TV. I love narrative in all its forms: fiction, theater, movies, TV, even (blush) country-western lyrics.
What books made you want to write?
Everything I’ve ever read. The good made me say, “I wish I could do that!” and the bad made me say, “I can do that better.”
If there was one piece of advice you could give an aspiring writer, what would it be?
Write. Just do it. Then again. Then some more. And more. Do not wait for inspiration; if you do enough of it often enough, inspiration will eventually come.
If you were to meet your favorite writer in person later today, what would you say to them?
Since my favorite writer is Jane Austen, this is unlikely. If I met her today, I would say, “What is the afterlife like for writers? And how good are the royalties there?”
What are you reading now? If you could pair it with a beverage (alcoholic or otherwise), what would you choose?
Coffee. Always coffee. Besides, right now I am reading David Quammen’s Spillover, about pandemics and parasites, and anything too strong to drink will further roil the already roiled stomach.