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“I took Peter’s yearlong course at Hugo House in 2019-2020, and I found him to be an invaluable instructor. His instincts for how good prose works, from craft elements to the realm of publishing, were instrumental in my writing career. He is an honest critic but an encouraging mentor, and I saw him provide acute feedback to short fiction, novels, essays, and memoirs alike. He helped me figure out how to risk sentimentality in my work, to push toward intensity when possible, and how to think about readership when it comes to where I want to publish. I cannot recommend him enough to anyone looking to get more serious about their writing.” See All

Peter Mountford $130/hr

Services Offered

  • One-on-One coaching sessions
  • Read Complete Manuscript
  • Read first 50 pages of manuscript
  • Synopsis

Available For

  • Book Proposals
  • Essay
  • Genre
  • Guidance in applying for awards/residencies
  • Guidance in Submissions to agents
  • Guidance in submissions to magazines or publishers
  • Literary Journalism
  • Marketing/Promotion
  • Memoir
  • Novel
  • Preparing applications for College/MFA/etc.
  • Screenwriting
  • Short Fiction
  • Young Adult

“I took Peter’s yearlong course at Hugo House in 2019-2020, and I found him to be an invaluable instructor. His instincts for how good prose works, from craft elements to the realm of publishing, were instrumental in my writing career. He is an honest critic but an encouraging mentor, and I saw him provide acute feedback to short fiction, novels, essays, and memoirs alike. He helped me figure out how to risk sentimentality in my work, to push toward intensity when possible, and how to think about readership when it comes to where I want to publish. I cannot recommend him enough to anyone looking to get more serious about their writing.”
— Chad Petrie (MFA candidate at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, class of 2023)

“When I was stuck with my writing, not knowing how to move forward, Peter Mountford gave me the personal coaching I needed. He took me from being an aspiring fiction writer with a lot of ideas, to a focused and skilled writer who could get them clearly on paper and into the world. I particularly benefited from his approach of reading my work aloud and commenting as he went. It allowed me to directly observe his reaction to my writing and ask clarifying questions in the moment. Peter’s in depth knowledge of literary arts and the publishing industry are a gift to anyone who works with him. Peter tells it like it is. Working with Peter is an incredibly efficient and direct way to grow as writer. He has been a wonderful mentor and friend.”
- Maggie Orth

“I approached Peter because I was tired of getting uninformative rejections from agents—sometimes even after partial and full requests. My first 1-hour session with Peter did more good for my manuscript than a year of revisions with beta readers and critique groups. He zeroed in on specific phrases that could be red flags to agents, and then he gave me concrete advice for moving forward. In addition to his own talent and knowledge of craft, Peter has two qualities that make him an excellent writing coach. He doesn't tell you things you could read online or in a book on writing—he responds very specifically to your manuscript. Secondly, he is ferociously efficient in his reading and feedback, making sure that you get great value for the time he invests. (And he doesn't blow smoke up your ass.) I regularly recommend him for writers who are struggling to take the next step in genre or literary fiction.”
- Jessica Hardesty Norris

“Peter helped me improve in just about every facet of my writing life. A few specifics that come
to mind: he gave me story critiques that encouraged while setting high standards; set me up with a mini-group who were fun, dedicated, and generous; advised on writing life in a way that totally reframed my conceptions about progress. I left class seeing how much more I need to write and read, how much more there is to learn, which is humbling and exciting."
-Michael Barry (MFA candidate at Bennington, class of 2023)

“’When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.’” It’s an old saying suited to the talented instruction and consultation of Peter Mountford. As a writer, he knows the process and pushes you to develop your own. As a reader, he devours your material giving insightful feedback and suggestions of books or articles to inform your own work. I’ve taken several classes from Peter because his knowledge, spontaneity and intellect are exactly what I need. If you are ready, the teacher has appeared.”
-Mary Anne Moorman, Public Radio Storyteller

Some authors who studied with Peter (in class or in mentorships) before their books were published include:
• Tara Conklin
• Shannon Huffman Polson
• Elissa Washuta
• Nicole Hardy
• Therese Huston
• Gail Hudson

Peter Mountford has taught creative writing—fiction and nonfiction, primarily—to thousands of writers at all phases of their careers. An accomplished and widely published author in his own right, Peter teaches from a place of practical application, and from personal experience.

Peter’s first novel A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) won the 2012 Washington State Book Award, was a finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novel Award, and is currently being developed as a television show by Campanario Entertainment. His second novel The Dismal Science (Tin House Books) was a finalist for the 2015 WSBA, and was a New York Times editor’s choice.

Peter’s short work has appeared in the New York Times (the ‘Modern Love’ column), the New York Times MagazineParis Review, The Atlantic magazine, GrantaGuernicaSouthern ReviewBest New American Voices 2008, and dozens of other magazines and newspapers. In 2012-14 Peter was the prose writer-in-residence at Hugo House, where he has been teaching since 2008. Since earning his MFA from the University of Washington in 2006, Peter’s work has won awards and grants from 4Culture, Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture, Seattle Magazine, and the Elizabeth George Foundation. Recipient of the 2016 Gar LaSalle Storyteller Award for a fiction writer in Washington State, Peter has also held fellowships to Bread Loaf and Yaddo, and is currently on faculty at Sierra Nevada College’s MFA program.

Working Style

The best approach is for me to first get a sense of where you are with your work, and what you’re looking for. Based on that initial assessment, we can have a conversation about the best approach. There are three basic models that usually apply:

1. If you want feedback on a completed book, it’s often enough for me to read the first 50 pages and a synopsis of the rest. This usually takes me about 5-6 hours. At the end you will get 4-5 (or more) single spaced pages. This is often enough for a book that has significant problems, or if it is very close to being ready for submission. In the event that your writing is just perfect, you won’t get charged, and you won’t get notes . . . I’ll just wish you well, and we can talk about agents.

2. If the book has multiple POVs, or if it is structurally complex, I’ll probably need to read the whole book, which can take as much as 20 hours. The amount of notes you get with this varies. The most I’ve given was about 15 pages single spaced. The least is probably 8 pages single spaced. There will be a lot of notes.

3. If you have a rough draft (or not) and are eager to dig in more deeply, work on process, rather than just the book—basically if you want to become a better writer—my favorite method of working is through weekly coaching (or every other week). We’ll meet for an hour a week, and at each meeting you bring 10-15 pages of your book (the first time we meet, you bring the first 10-15 pages, second time the next 10-15 pages, etc.). I read the manuscript aloud and pause to talk about what I’m seeing as I read. This is a very unfiltered and direct form of feedback, so it can be a little intense, but it’s extremely effective. At the end of each session I’ll give you a plan/assignment for the coming week.

4. One of my specialties is giving advice to people who are seeking a literary agent, or need advice on the professional aspect of the writing life. I have advised many authors through this experience, and people often seem woefully unaware of how best to proceed.

Availability

Prefer email or in-person meetings. Flexible schedule. Clients who met with Peter in 2017 or earlier will be charged the earlier rate.

Interests

I’ve found that my ability to be a good mentor has almost nothing to do with what I find interesting as a writer. I want to help you do what <i>you’re</i> trying to do (I’m not trying to get you to do what I do). That said, I tend to encourage my students toward work that has urgency and is very engaging to the reader. There needs to be an internal propulsion mechanism of some sort. Usually story is really important, but I’ve read books that get away with having almost no story (Nicholson Baker’s books, for example). For nonfiction, the internal propulsion mechanism often relates to voice, and tone, but also to old fashioned suspense and plot (in some way).

Truthfully, I get bored pretty easily, and you’ll know when I get bored. I’m not rude or mean; I am definitely on your side, and I want to encourage you, but I know what is required for a piece to be publishable, and I want you to write it at that level.

As a mentor or writing coach, I am at my best when I understand what an author is attempting to achieve. So if your favorite writer is W.G. Sebald, and you’d like to emulate him, I’m probably not going to be much use to you (no worries if you don’t know Sebald’s work: it’s intensely dry). Basically, whatever you bring me, I will try to make it more interesting, more energetic, more emotionally resonant, and more authentic. But I’ll also try to help you make it more you, or the best of you.