Setting aside Chekhov’s gun

I love Anton Chekhov. His sense of story rooted in character and culture has long held me spellbound, and I hold him as an unreachable ideal for what the best of short fiction can look like. He also had some terrific writing advice, probably the most famous of which was in favor of necessity in the details: “RemoveContinue reading “Setting aside Chekhov’s gun”

NaNoWriMo 2015: the end is the beginning

Well, I have crossed the finish line and then some. As of today, my word count stands a little more than 57,500. Of course, as I said in my previous NaNoWriMo post, a lot of those words I’ll wind up throwing out, and I also know a lot of those words might stay but become drasticallyContinue reading “NaNoWriMo 2015: the end is the beginning”

Feeling thankful for my students

I held classes on Wednesday. At our community college, we’re on a quarter system and only have ten weeks or so per course, and in a writing class, that’s never enough, so we need to use all the days we can. Of course, the day before Thanksgiving, many of my students understandably take off to visit familyContinue reading “Feeling thankful for my students”

NaNoWriMo 2015: revising without revising

It’s been a while since I’ve posted updates on my NaNoWriMo. That’s because it’s been a busy month, with a lot of side obligations I’ve been fulfilling. I judged a literary contest, I blurbed a friend’s book, I did a couple of readings, I wrote an essay a magazine solicited. It’s also been a busy month of myContinue reading “NaNoWriMo 2015: revising without revising”

NaNoWriMo 2015: plot, structure, shape

I struggle with plot. In grade school, I learned that plot was just another word for story. Later, I learned a more mechanical version, that plot was the arrangement of events in a narrative. It is the order in which things happen, and it has a shape. Mostly it looks like an arc — often a sharp one, likeContinue reading “NaNoWriMo 2015: plot, structure, shape”

NaNoWriMo 2015: inspiration

A few months back, while looking through some old family miscellany, I had an idea for a new novel. This month, I’m writing that novel for NaNoWriMo. But unlike in years past, I’m trying to avoid reading much of anything while I’m writing the book — I have a pretty clear narrative voice and, as ofContinue reading “NaNoWriMo 2015: inspiration”

Against my better judgment: NaNoWriMo 2015

I don’t know quite why I’m getting myself into this, except that I don’t know what else to do. I’ve had an idea for a novel for a couple of months now, but I haven’t done anything with it because I’m still in the middle of writing a different book. When it comes to bigContinue reading “Against my better judgment: NaNoWriMo 2015”

We are Umpqua Community College

This morning, a young man went to the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, walked into a writing classroom, and opened fire. As I write this, the most common reports are that twenty people are wounded, and thirteen people are dead, including the writing teacher. I teach at Chemeketa Community College; today, IContinue reading “We are Umpqua Community College”

On teaching writing, and teaching, and writing

I know a few teaching writers — a lot, if I’m honest — who have often bemoaned their composition courses. They understand the necessity of composition courses and don’t mind teaching them from time to time, but (these writers sometimes confess to me) they would much rather be teaching advanced literature or creative writing. I don’t blame them.Continue reading “On teaching writing, and teaching, and writing”