Stealing From the Greats: Crafting Stories from Existing Models (with Lindsey Crittenden)

Lindsey Crittenden

Lindsey Crittenden



SATURDAY & SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 & 17, and SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23  |  “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

This three-day course explores the implications of this statement (attributed to Pablo Picasso) for anyone interested in fiction writing. (And no, we’re not talking about plagiarism or advocating criminal activity.) As writers, we are shaped by what we read. We are also influenced by what literary critic Harold Bloom called “the anxiety of influence” — the sure knowledge that someone, somewhere, has said it before and probably better. So how can we step aside from the anxiety of all those masterful stories we love (or envy) and have fun with outside models?

In this class, we’ll look at the rich fodder of material that awaits our “stealing.” By exploring models such as fairy tales and myths, newspaper headlines, literary classics and even sit-coms, as well as non-narrative forms such as recipes, computer code, and to-do lists, we’ll find inspiration and practical solutions for our own fiction. What makes a story like David Foster Wallace’s “Good People” or Nathan Englander’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” fresh and original while acknowledging its debt to Hemingway or Carver? How is Angela Carter’s retelling of Bluebeard not simply derivative? By analyzing elements of craft and voice as ways to navigate the risks of parody and imitation, we’ll find techniques to tell “the same story” in a new way (which means, of course, that it’s not the same story at all).

We’ll spend one weekend writing and exploring, and then we’ll meet again a week later to share work in a constructive, supportive format. In this way, you’ll produce a first draft of a new story and leave with concrete plans for taking it further. This workshop is suitable for writers who’ve never written fiction as well as those looking for new creative approaches to a familiar genre.

Please note that the first class is an all-day session (10:30 am to 4:30 pm), while the two subsequent classes are half-day sessions (1:00 pm to 4:30 pm).

Lindsey Crittenden is the author of an award-winning short-fiction collection, The View from Below, as well as short stories published and forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Mississippi Review, Glimmer Train, and other publications. Two of the stories she most enjoyed writing were based on models — in one case, a how-to-write manual, and in the other, a fable. Lindsey loves teaching this class and seeing the fabulous results in her students’ work. An Honored Instructor at U.C. Berkeley Extension, she has taught and helped develop creative-writing curricula for more than 20 years.



Number of sessions: 3 (Please note: Class is both Saturday and Sunday on the weekend of September 16-17, with a third and final session the following Saturday, September 23.)

Time: 10:30 am – 4:30 pm (on September 16); 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm (on September 17 and 23);

Dates:  Saturday, September 16; Sunday, September 17; Saturday, September 23.

Course fee: $300


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