Though Garth made his first appearance yesterday with his post about the Illustrated Pynchon, I’d like to formally welcome him aboard. I’ve known Garth for a long time – at least a dozen years, I think – and we’ve always talked about books, so I’m glad he decided to join us. He’ll have other reviews and dispatches up soon. Let the hazing commence.
If you’re arriving here after hearing my appearance on Weekend Edition Sunday, welcome! Just to give you a little background, I started The Millions in early 2003 when I was a bookseller at an independent bookstore in Los Angeles. I’ve since moved on from there, but the blog has stuck around. We now have seven contributors besides me, and we write nearly daily about books and other cultural topics.If you want to look around, a great place to start is the notable posts on the right-hand sidebar. You can get to the archives by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.Finally, in case you want to get more info on the books I mentioned during the segment, here are some links to the books on Amazon (I haven’t heard the segment yet, so not sure if they edited any of these out):Ragtime by E.L. DoctorowPastoralia by George SaundersEast of Eden by John SteinbeckOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia MarquezThe Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll by Alvaro MutisThanks for checking out The Millions!
I’ve been teaching fiction writing out of my apartment for over a year now. Seven people show up to my place once a week to eat some gourmet cheese, drink some wine (or sparkling water), and talk about fiction writing. It’s been terrific to explore craft topics with such a diverse group of Angelenos; my students range in age from 24 to 57, and, when they’re not writers, they are painters, actors, therapists, vineyard owners, producers, nannies, midwives, and so on. I always try to balance the intensity of our critique sessions (because they are intense – this ain’t no touchy-feely love fest) with discussions of published work (for how can you write if you don’t read?) and writing exercises (which are either loved or hated, depending on the student). Teaching inspires and challenges me, and it keeps me writing – for how could I present myself as a voice of authority if I weren’t committed to the art form?This November, I’m trying my hand at a weekend seminar, called Introduction to Fiction Writing. It’s designed for new writers, but I plan for it to be useful to more experienced writers as well, those who want to revisit technique and gather new material. If you’re an L.A. reader of The Millions, perhaps you’ll join me?Here’s the course description:In this seminar, we will explore the major tenets of fiction writing, including characterization, narrative voice, prose style, point of view, scene and summary, dialogue, and structure. Over the course of the seminar, we will continually return to certain questions: How can we use language to capture the uncapturable? How can a bunch of words on the page move us, make us understand what it means to be human? How can form and technique help us to improve as writers? In an attempt to answer these questions, we will look to published fiction for guidance, and dive into various writing exercises. Students will leave the seminar with the beginnings of several promising projects, as well as the skills to follow through with them.When: Saturday 11/17 and Sunday 11/18, 10:30-12:30 and 1:30-3:30 pm each day7 student maximum enrollmentThe course will take place in Los FelizCourse fee: $110Email me at [email protected] for more information.
[Max: This is the introduction to a new monthly feature written by Corey Vilhauer who blogs at Black Marks on Wood Pulp]For the most part, I’m a young reader.I’m not well versed with years of thoughtful reading. I’m only 27, and in that time I’ve only read so many books in between finishing school, staring a career, and watching too much television.Now I’m struggling to catch up. Luckily for you, I’m broadcasting this struggle to the masses.Each month on my blog I recap everything I’ve read – a “What I’ve Been Reading” column. There’s a lot to be said about the paths a mind takes when selecting a new book, and part of what I do is try to make those connections. Why would I bother reading a George Orwell essay right after finishing Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island? It could be that I was obsessed at the time with English culture and wanted to continue riding the wave. Or it could be that Bryson mentioned a certain Orwell passage while recounting his three month jaunt around England.Or, it could be as simple as “I bought it and wanted to start it immediately.”Well, I can’t bring all of that to The Millions. What I can bring, however, is my favorite book of the month. Call it the Vilhauer Book of the Month club. Some months it’s going to be a classic, like John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Others are going to be more obscure – think Jonathan Safran Foer’s The Unabridged Pocketbook of Lightning (a 70th anniversary Pocket Penguin released only in the U.K. and Canada).Regardless, I’ll bring it to you. You’ll get the background as to why I’m reading it. You’ll get the story itself. You’ll get why I like it. You’ll get what it led me to read next.All in all, you’ll get every stinking second I’ve spent on the book – from selection to completion – and you’ll have no one to thank but Max for allowing me to spout off on this site. Thank him later, if you wish.Corey Vilhauer
We’re welcoming another regular to The Millions. You’ll recognize Jacob Lambert from his ongoing series “The Road (A Comedic Translation),” and he’ll be doing more humor pieces for us as well as whatever else he comes up with. Jacob has written for MAD Magazine for several years. He also has a regular column in Philly Weekly and freelances for various other publications. Welcome Jacob!
I’m teaching another eight-week Short Fiction Workshop, which will begin March 12, 2009. This course differs from previous ones in that, aside from our examinations of published short fiction, we will also be reading nonfiction writing about writing (so far I’ve got Annie Dillard, Italo Calvino and Lewis Hyde on the list – with possible inclusion of Lynda Barry, Rick Bass, and Gary Lutz). These won’t be how-to discussions, but, rather, meditations on, among other things, what writing is like, both when it’s going well and when it’s going poorly (Dillard), and what it means to be an artist in this contemporary world (Hyde). I’m curious where discussions of these texts will take us. What you might suggest for this kind of syllabus?Here’s the official course description and my nifty bio.If you’re interested in the class, email me at [email protected]And…check out the new website!Short Fiction Workshop Spring 20098 Thursdays, 03/12/2009 to 05/07/2009 (no class 04/02/2009) 7:30-9:30 pm$340 for new students; $310 for returning studentsEnrollment limit: 8 StudentsFor the first four weeks of this eight week course, we will do in-class writing exercises and discuss published short fiction from a craft perspective. We will also read and discuss essays about writing and the writing life by such authors as Annie Dillard, Italo Calvino, and Lewis Hyde. For the final four weeks of the course we will workshop student work in a serious environment meant to challenge and inspire every member of the class. Each student will have the opportunity to workshop one short story manuscript.For more information, go here.About the Instructor:Edan Lepucki has an M.F.A from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her short fiction has been published in Meridian, the Los Angeles Times, CutBank, Narrative Magazine, Avery, and the Los Angeles Review. She has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Oberlin College, the Gotham Writers’ Workshop, and for Vroman’s Bookstore’s Education Program. She is currently at work on a novel.