Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Slate has an excerpt from the recent article MFA or NYC in N+1. Well worth a read for anyone interested in how to make a life out of writing.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fiction Dinner with Steve Goodwin!

Fiction Dinner with Steve Goodwin!

Steve is graciously allowing us to invade his house on Sunday, November 14th for food, drink, writing pep talks and such. Come on out and see what's up with your favorite fiction peeps, hear what's going with Steve, or in some cases, meet him for the first time.

(For the 1st years - we have potluck gatherings of fiction folk a couple of times a year to meet and greet one of our faculty.)

Date: Sunday November 14th
Time: 6PM
Directions / address will be provided!

RSVP to lhillcor at gmu.edu with the scrumptious dish (or useful paper products) that you plan on bringing.

Looking forward to seeing you or meeting you!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pat Devlin and Paul Zaic Read at Loud Fire

Pat Devlin and Paul Zaic will be reading this Sunday at our Loud Fire reading series. Come out and hear your fellow fiction writers share their work. It will be well worth your time.

The Loud Fire reading begins on Sunday, October 24th, 6pm at the Soundry, 316 Dominion Road, Vienna, VA.

See you there!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Short Story v. Novel

If you were to tell someone about one moment of your life, and only one, that moment would be the short story. A short story is a glimpse into the life of a character. This glimpse is definitive. The events of a short story compel a character through the rest of his or her life. Everything that happens before a short story is a preamble. Everything after a short story is a consequence. After all, Alan Cheuse often quotes his good friend Bernard Malamud as saying "a short story predicates a life."

Novels on the other hand are allowed the space to create entire worlds for readers. Prolonged depictions of life and place set the goal of the novel as something different than that of the short story. Rather than suggest a life that happened outside the confines of a narrative, the novel aims to show the reader life.

John Gardner writes in On Becoming a Novelist about the experience of reading a novel.
We read five words on the first page of a really good novel and we begin to forget that we are reading printed words on a page... We slip into a dream, forgetting the room we're sitting in, forgetting it's lunchtime or time to go to work. We recreate, with minor and for the most part unimportant changes, the vivid and continuous dream the writer worked out in his mind (revising and revising until he got it right) and captured in language so that other human beings, whenever they feel like it, may open his book and dream that dream again.
Here Gardner demonstrates how novels can be engrossing. Readers can become absorbed in a world different than their own. One can roam around the life of a character and experience a different life. The experience can be so exhaustive that upon closing a book a reader examines his or her own world in a different light, almost unsure of which reality is more compelling.

Is one better than the other? They seem to aspire to different goals. Sometimes you need the precision of a Kawabata story, and the suggestion that one moment can predicate an entire life. The brevity of a page can have a simplistic beauty to it. The novel on the other hand can be an exhaustive exploration of time and place. Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude explores several generations of a family who inhabit a city from its rise to its fall. In this journey, we see not just the definitive moment of one character but those of a family and a place that are engrossing. Both narrative experiences are satisfying. One offers brevity and the other thoroughness.

My question to you is which do you prefer?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Paris Review Interviews

Visit The Paris Review Interviews for comprehensive talks with authors like Margaret Atwood, Jorge Luis Borges, Raymond Carver, Julio Cortazar, Richard Ford, Haruki Murakami, David Mamet, Vladmir Nabokov, Susan Sontag and more. It's well worth a visit.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What is a Fiction Writer?

As a writer of both short stories and unfinished novels, I wonder what it is that defines me as someone who creates fiction. Of course, there is the obvious answer that I make up a story. Where a nonfiction writer bases narrative on events that actually happen, fiction writers take liberties. The characters, the events, even the setting can be drawn from the imagination.

In this process fiction is created. I would like to think that fiction is an imitation of life molded from the experiences in our lives in a mimetic fashion, but I feel there may be more to the craft than that. Consider the following quote from How Fiction Works by James Wood.
When Robert Browning describes the sound of a bird singing its song twice over, in order to "recapture / The first fine careless rapture," he is being a poet, trying to find the best poetic image; but when Chekhov, in his story "Peasants," says that a bird's cry sounded as if a cow had been locked up in a shed all night, he is being a fiction writer: he is thinking like one of his peasants.
Wood implies that it's necessary to inhabit the mind of the characters you create. For a fiction writer, it is not enough to document and comment on the world around you. You must live it. You must think through how a peasant, an expatriate, or a jazz musician would see and describe the world. In this sense, you acquire the diction and perspective of another and create a world that is not true. Some part of the fictive world has to resonate though. There must be something recognizable in fiction with which readers can relate. It is this aspect of recognition that draws readers to experience the life of another, whether the life actually occurred or not.

I think it is this ability to capture the mindset of characters that sets the fiction writer apart from the poet and nonfiction writer. If poetry is considered the purest, most condensed form of language, I would argue that fiction should be the considered the superlative telling of life, not of the author's life, or of those the author witnessed, but of those lives the author is capable of imagining.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Welcome Back, Fiction Writers!

You are SO going to want to know about...

Phoebe's Awesome Winter Fiction & Poetry Contests,
including its first-ever Nonfiction Contest!

Tell everyone you know! Details here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fiction Dinner with Alan on May 23rd

Last fiction dinner for year!

When: May 23rd, 6PM
Where: Alan’s house in DC (we'll send out the address)

Here is our list. If you told me what you're bringing and I don't have it down here, just send me an email and I'll add it. Those of you still deciding, just let me know when you can so we have an idea of the menu.

You know the drill, we'll gather and eat. Then Alan will talk and probably ask us all what we've been reading and if we're revising. (Answers: Ulysses and Of course!)

Nicole Lee
gourmet cheese
Jeff Moscaritolo
Jay Patel

Beckie McGill
wine / pasta salad
Lisa Hill-Corley
Norah Vawter

Sarah Silberman
tomato and cucumber salad
Elizabeth Gutting

Corey Beasley

Paul Zaic
slow cooked meat
Ken Isreal
carrot side dish
Bree Spencer

Kirsten Clodfelter

Laura Vinti
Pat Devlin

Priyanka Champaneri
sparkling cider
Atossa Shafaie

Sara Flood

Jennifer Brown
fruit salad
David Tucholski

Mark Fabiano
fresh vegetables and dip, diet soda
Ben Brown

Amber Smith (maybe)

cherry dessert

Monday, April 19, 2010

Five Alums Win storySouth Selection

The journal storySouth selected three four five stories by GMU MFA alumni for its Notable Stories of 2009 awards: Tara Laskowski, for “Like Everyone Else” in Fiction Weekly; Janet Freeman, for “The Ugliest Drowned Man in the World Washes Ashore Lake Michigan” in PANK; Benjamin Chadwick, for “The Power of Fiction” in Rough Copy; Rion Amilcar Scott, for “Rolling in My Six-Fo’—Daa Daa Daa—With All My Niggas Saying: Swing Down Sweet Chariot Stop and Let Me Riiiide. Hell Yeah.” in Bosphorus Art Project Quarterly; and Scott Garson, for “About Me and My Cousin,” in Matchbook. Congrats all!

Also named was the story “Stranger Things Have Happened,” by Alix Ohlin, one of our visiting writers in fiction this spring (the story appeared in failbetter.com).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Congrats to Jenna Morgan!

Our very own Jenna Morgan has just received an acceptance from Soundings East. Her short story "For Want of Sleep" will be featured in the 2010 edition of the journal. Congrats to Jenna! Keep those stories coming.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More good news...

Congratulations are in order for Collin Grabarek, who has a story forthcoming both in print and online in the April issue of Crossed Genres. Nice job, Collin!

Monday, March 8, 2010

And the fellowship goes to...

Super-congrats to the 2010-2011 Fellows, including:

Nicole Lee
Collin Grabarek

Judy Adkins

Allison Strub
Aubrey Lenahan
Jennifer Daniels

Well done, all!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Art Taylor’s Ellery Queen Mystery Tour

. . . is rolling; check out his story “Rearview Mirror” in the forthcoming March/April issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. And that’s an invitation.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Santa Monica Review has "Heartworms"

And it's all Sara Flood's fault. She recently received word from the SMR editor that they're going to publish her lovely short story.

Congratulations, Sara!

Point your mouse here to watch for it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kirsten Clodfelter Lands Not One, Not Two, But Three Publications!

Congrats to Kirsten Clodfelter for three new publications! Check out her new story, "A Dissolution," recently published in Dark Sky Magazine, and be sure to stay tuned for her stories forthcoming in Forge and Fogged Clarity. Congratulations, Kirsten! Keep those stories coming.