Episode 84: Lillian Li On Finding Your Process

Number One Chinese Restaurant author Lillian Li joins Larry and Lee (subbing again for BQ) in the GrottoPod this week to discuss the many roads that led to her debut novel. She shares her brief-but-intense experience as a waitress, what it’s like writing a beach novel at Panera, and how family, life experience and tradition shaped her writing voice.

“In some ways (my book) is and isn’t inspired by working in a restaurant. I was just trying to get through the day without crying in the walk-in refrigerator at least once.”

10:02: How a panoply of inspirations led to Number One Chinese Restaurant
20:11: Getting into the mind of a male protagonist
24:05: Questions of plot; finding your writing process
33:55: How Li came to see writing as a career instead of a hobby
47:26: Number One Chinese Restaurant’s journey from manuscript to book

Episode 83: Crystal Hana Kim On Making Your First Novel Epic

For her first novel, author Crystal Hana Kim tackled an epic, multi-narrator love triangle set against the backdrop of the Korean War. She joins Larry and guest host Lee Kravetz in the GrottoPod this week to discuss the challenges of writing If You Leave Me, her love for her characters and how she balances teaching and writing.

“I wanted to write about a woman, because war narratives are so often about men in battle. I wanted to write about what happens when a woman is traumatized by war.”

12:20: Why she chose to pursue both an MFA and an advanced teaching degree, and how training for both is cross-beneficial.→ READ MORE

Episode 82: “Writer’s Writer” Fenton Johnson

“Writer’s writer” Fenton Johnson joins the GrottoPod this week for a far-ranging conversation that touches on some of the recurring themes in his work: place, solitude, faith and belonging. Johnson has written six books, including three novels and the memoir Geography of the Heart.

“I believe in writing as rhetoric. The challenge is to do the triple backwards somersault flip where whatever you’re writing is teaching you to convey that to the reader in a way where the reader is engaged and is participating in the process.”

8:36: How searching for “place” and finding one’s way became a theme in Johnson’s work.→ READ MORE

Episode 80: Lydia Kiesling On First Novels

The Millions editor Lydia Kiesling joins Larry and co-producer Laurie Ann Doyle in the studio this week to chat about Kiesling’s new book, The Golden State — a tale of motherhood, immigration and California, out September 4.

“You have things you want to say. Do you have the correct container to put them in? When I wrote book reviews, I could fit them into essay-shaped things. When I became a parent, I had stuff, but I didn’t have the shape to put it in. A novel was the only shape I could fit it.”

9:50: Discussion of of pre-publication essays and Lydia’s work as editor of The Millions
19:55: “Writing while mothering,” and balancing story with thematic issues
30:42: Structural choices and narrative distance
39:40: Drawing dramatic themes from your own life
45:02: Lydia’s development as a writer

Work In Progress Workshop (with Lindsey Crittenden)


Lindsey Crittenden

Lindsey Crittenden

 

 

 

SATURDAYS, APRIL 30–MAY 21  |  Craving a creative community? Looking for support and accountability?  If you want to write more but find it hard to make the time and find the place – let alone some like-minded colleagues with whom to share feedback and an instructor to keep you going – set aside four Saturday afternoons at the Grotto this spring. Whether starting from scratch, getting beyond the first 10 pages, or wrestling with revision, this workshop will help you reach the next level.

We’ll work to set goals, frame a workable practice that makes sense for you, and hold each other accountable – without blame.

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Pushing the Boundaries: Experiments in Fiction or Poetry (with Jenny Bitner)


Jenny Bitner

Jenny Bitner

 

 

 

TUESDAYS, APRIL 26–MAY 31  |  What happens when we approach writing like an experiment? Our minds are open, our writing is deep, and there is no room for writers’ block or cliché ideas. Burroughs used cut-up writing, Anais Nin made her diary her art, and now novels are being written in tweets and texts. Each week we will explore different experimental styles from surrealism to postmodernism and do exercises to loosen our minds and push us in new directions with our writing. With daily writing prompts and in-class exercises, this class is great for beginning writers or experienced writers wanting to push their writing in new directions.

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The Pang in Your Heart: Short Story Workshop (with Elizabeth Bernstein)


Elizabeth Bernstein

Elizabeth Bernstein

 

 

 

MONDAYS, APRIL 18–JUNE 13  |  A short story can knock you flat, it can break your heart, it can make you believe in the world. But how? How can you achieve all that in just a few thousand words? This comprehensive workshop will cover the key elements that make a short story great: plot, character, structure, dialogue, pacing, tension, and more. In class, we’ll explore the short story form using fun in-class exercises, close analysis of weekly readings, handouts, lecture, and discussion. We’ll also talk about how to integrate writing into your life, survive the slush pile, and publish your work.

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Kinda True Stories: Turning Your Life Into Fiction (with Jenny Bitner)


Jenny Bitner

Jenny Bitner

 

 

 

THURSDAYS, APRIL 14–MAY 19  |  Is it true or is it fiction – and does it matter? Often the lines between memoir and fiction can be blurry. And most of great literature has at least some elements of truth in it, from books like Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar to modern examples like Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, and Chris Kraus’ and Eileen Myles’ work.

In this class we will explore memories, experiences, and characters from our own lives and turn them into fictional stories, blending the richness of our emotional and felt experiences with elements from our imagination to create compelling writing.

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How to (Profoundly) Move Your Readers: The Craft of Developing Dramatic Emotions (with Junse Kim)


Junse Kim

Junse Kim

 

 

 

SUNDAYS, APRIL 3—MAY 1  |  One of the most difficult narrative issues in fiction writing is how to emotionally move your readers. Often, what we writers render on the page are concepts of drama meant to profoundly affect the reader, but it does not. In this five-week process class we will dissect the intricate concepts of how emotions are developed in fiction, and master how to recognize and apply narrative craft that develop dramatic emotions in ways that can move our readers.  These skills will be developed through in-class writing exercises and assignments, focusing on interior monologue, characters’ perceptions, creating motivations, and more.

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Truth in Fiction: How to Use History and Current Events to Deepen Setting in Your Fiction (with Meron Hadero)


Meron Hadero

Meron Hadero

Contact: mhadero@gmail.com

Number of sessions: 2

Time: 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Date: Saturday, January 30 & Saturday, February 20

Course fee: $150

 In this class, we’ll look at fiction narratives that successfully build setting through history, politics, current events, and that generally capture the zeitgeist of a period. We’ll explore what works, what doesn’t, and what challenges a writer faces in this kind of world-building. Approaches to research and analysis will also be discussed as useful tools for the fiction writer.

Meron Hadero is a graduate of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan (M.F.A.) and an assistant editor at The Offing focusing on micro prose.

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