Tag: Gotham Writers

Gotham Writers

If I Can Do It, You Can Too

That’s the title of one of the panels at the upcoming and new Gotham Writers Conference. There’s also a panel on Embracing Rejection, which I could moderate, and one on The Agent’s View: What We Talk About When We Talk About You, which I am moderating. As a long time Gotham teacher, I’m excited to see what this new venture is like, and so I turned to Josh Sippie, who’s organizing it, and asked him a few questions.

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Advice from Ursula Le Guin

Last night in my Gotham Writing class we discussed Ursula Le Guin’s writing advice, and, as you can imagine, she had a lot of good advice. One of the things she said that struck me was that the idea that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end is a typically European idea because it puts emphasis on the end–“on where the story goes, what you get to.”    She suggested that it might also be helpful to think of a story as a house to be explored.  “You want the entrance to be attractive, you want the front door to be invitingly open, showing a glimpse of what’s inside. Once you’re lured your reader inside, you may direct her in a definite route right through the house and the events happening in it to the back door. Or you may just provide the rooms and halls and staircases and events, and let the reader find her own way around–let her live there for a while. Or you may conduct her smllingly up to the attic and show her the yellow wallpaper and lock her in. Or you may show her views of undreamed of landscapes through the windows, charmed magic easements opening on the foam of perilous seas in faery lands forlorn, so she never wants to leave the house at all, and has to be pushed out the back door–or shown that there’s a sequel right next door.” Of course, I then had everyone draw pictures of the house they thought their novel would be. Some of us,myself included, drew warm houses with porches and open doors. Others set there houses in the woods and they had an ominous bleak look. I found it so helpful. What would the house of your novel look like?

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Novel Draft

This semester I’m teaching a brand-new class for Gotham Writers, titled Novel Draft 2. (As you might imagine, it follows Novel Draft 1.) This is a class designed for people who are embarking on the novel journey. Some have ideas, some have 200 pages of manuscript. Most are in that first-draft stage, which is to say they are feeling their way and are looking for inspiration and guidance. As opposed to my usual screaming and yelling. Not!  The syllabus of the class is especially fun because each week we examine a different writer and discuss excerpts from his or her book and then do writing exercises based on what we’ve discussed. So, for example, last week we studied Ernest J. Gaines and focused on his novel, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Gaines is a master of voice, so one of the exercises we did was to “write a brief passage from your novel from the first person point of view of a character whose point of view is never used.” I’m always floored by the things people come up with, myself include. There’s something so inspiring about sitting with a bunch of writers and writing. Which writers inspire you?

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