MFA in one week at Wildacres Writer’s Workshop

It was my priv­i­lege to attend the Wildacres Writer’s Work­shop this July. Inten­sive work­shops in Poet­ry, Short Fic­tion, Nov­els, and Non-fic­tion each day.

Among the fac­ul­ty, pub­lished authors Ron Rash (think Ser­e­na — soon to be a movie — and The Cove), Car­rie Brown, Luke Whis­nant, and John Gre­go­ry Brown led the nov­el-writ­ing groups and short sto­ry groups. All are award-win­ning writ­ers of poet­ry, short sto­ries, and nov­els. Com­mer­cial fic­tion (bought at the air­port) was taught by my friend and teacher, Vic­ki Lane. Her Eliz­a­beth Good­weath­er nov­els are all set in Appalachia near Asheville. Ron Rash’s sto­ries are also set near­by. Ser­e­na in 1929, and The Cove dur­ing World War I.

Luke Whisnant’s Short Sto­ry class

For each class, we had a short sto­ry assigned by the teacher as well as two class­mate-sub­mit­ted sto­ries. Each was dis­cussed, first by the class and then by the teacher, bring­ing in teach­ing points as were applic­a­ble. Since each class met once a day for two hours, we were encour­aged to sit in on anoth­er class. For me it was short sto­ry for two hours in the morn­ing and two hours in the oth­er short sto­ry class in the after­noon. John Brown’s and Luke Whisnant’s class­es in com­bi­na­tion pro­vid­ed a vir­tu­al Mas­ter Class in Short Sto­ry writ­ing each day.

John Brown await­ing an answer to his peren­ni­al ques­tion, “What’s the sto­ry about? Not what hap­pened in the sto­ry, but what’s it about?”

John Brown’s class debat­ing a story’s struc­ture

 

 

 

In John Brown’s class, my class­mates includ­ed a pub­lished author, a rab­bi, and a fam­i­ly doc­tor. All three were women.

I sat in on Ron Rash’s nov­el-writ­ing class

Reg­is­tra­tion for the WWW includes a sub­mis­sion in the genre to be stud­ied. That sub­mis­sion, of course, becomes one of  the cri­tiqued read­ings in the course. Just being able to say that your sto­ry was work-shopped at the Wildacres Writ­ing Work­shop car­ries a smidgeon of panache, at least among writ­ers who’ve been there.  Pub­li­ca­tion of your sto­ry or nov­el, of course, doesn’t auto­mat­i­cal­ly fol­low, but, need­less to say, the com­ments gleaned dur­ing the class when your writ­ing is cri­tiqued gives you many ideas for improv­ing the draft.

 Vic­ki Lane and two of her stu­dents on the Wildacres patio

The Work­shop, for me, was pri­mar­i­ly a time for the absorp­tion of ideas rather than an oppor­tu­ni­ty for writ­ing. Cell phones are not reli­able and the “pay-phones” were dis­con­nect­ed when we had three days of mist and rain.

Read­ing in the audi­to­ri­um

 

Two evenings were devot­ed to fac­ul­ty read­ings in the audi­to­ri­um. One of the high­lights for me was Vic­ki Lane’s read­ing an unpub­lished short sto­ry that fea­tures a moun­tain beast that might or might not actu­al­ly exist.  Two oth­er evenings were stu­dent read­ings (four-minute lim­it!).

The week was heady for this writer. Lots of notes to read. Lots of short sto­ries to read — Ron Rash’s “Burn­ing Bright” col­lec­tion for starters. Then back to work on the mur­der mys­tery I’m hop­ing to work­shop at Wildacres next year!

Wildacres Retreat is an hour north­east from Asheville, near the tiny town of Lit­tle Switzer­land and the Blue Ridge Park­way. Seri­ous nat­ur­al beau­ty!

Writer/musicians gath­ered on the Patio

 


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