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February 2014

This is Why You Write

By Bob Johnson, Associate Professor, Bluegrass Writers Studio

This is why you write:

Anatomy of a Novel-Writing Workshop

By Dr. Derek Nikitas, Director, Bluegrass Writers Studio

A Bluegrass Writers Studio perk is our love of long-form prose, along with the short stuff. We’ve blogged before about our teaching in this area, here and here.

But what’s the shape of an actual novel-writing course? Depends. There’s the type where finished manuscripts get polished. There are auditorium seminars in plotting. Even some short-story workshops “allow” novel chapters. There’ve been whole AWP panels devoted to this question.

Here’s how I do it at the Bluegrass Writers Studio. I’ll be teaching another of these starting this fall.

Editor Envy

By Lindsey Stockton Frantz, Bluegrass Writers Studio Alumnus

            When Dr. Young Smith approached me a few years ago and asked if I’d like to be Editor-in-Chief of Jelly Bucket--the Bluegrass Writers Studio’s literary journal--I was thrilled. I’d worked on the journal as production manager and I thought I was fully prepared for the duties being Editor-in-Chief entailed. In retrospect, my naïveté is almost endearing. Almost.

            As the production manager of the second issue, I had my hands on every piece of fiction, nonfiction, prose, and visual art that went into the journal. I placed each piece in the journal and formatted each page. It was very time-consuming and very rewarding. I thought moving from that position for issue three would be a break.

Writing Laterally

By Cynthia Behunin, Bluegrass Writers Studio

     We all live lives filled with the stuff after-school specials are made of, don’t we? But when sharing my struggles, I sugar-coat them so my extended family thinks my life is filled with sugar plums, dancing, and laughter. Friends and new acquaintances only picture me based on what I choose to tell them and may never know the darker sides of my life (of which there’s plenty).

Speed Dating for Writers

By Jen Parks, Bluegrass Writers Studio

     If you are a fiction writer like me, getting to know your characters can be like going on a bad first date: having to field a long list of banal questions you’re not even sure you want the answers to, interspersed with random awkward pauses. And all the while, you wonder, what am I doing here?

     At Winter Residency, I attended a craft lecture by Alissa Nutting, author of the novel Tampa. I wasn't sure if her topic of writing villains would apply to me. After all, I don’t write about evil people; I write about evil things that happen to good people. Totally different, right?

     Not exactly.

When an MA Isn't Enough

By Eliot Parker, Bluegrass Writers Studio alumnus

     I’ve always wanted to be a writer. However, I did not begin writing creative work until I was in college, when I needed a break from the rigors of academic writing. After I graduated with my Master's Degree in English from Marshall University and began teaching full-time at Mountwest Community and Technical College in 2007, my creative writing was stifled by the requirements of class preparation, grading papers, office hours, and committee work. Yet, I renewed my passion for writing during summer breaks.

Plot is Not a Four-Letter Word


By Derek Nikitas, Director, Bluegrass Writers Studio

Didn’t see that coming?

I lucked out in grad school. A handful of my professors weren’t allergic to plot. They understood and explained the deep value of narrative structure, traditional and experimental.  

Often, workshops focus on the finished draft with little mention of process. Strategizing itself is sometimes met with suspicion. But still, some of my deepest insights into story came from sessions where my mentors addressed the scaffolding of story, the blueprint, even before it was written. We worked through faults in story logic and rifts in causality, the “contract with the reader,” dips in interest and the fundamental importance of the turn, the rhetoric of character action, the setups, the payoffs.   

The Summer of My Disquiet

By Joseph Nichols, Graduate Assistant, Bluegrass Writers Studio

            Last June, I disembarked from an early morning Portuguese airplane.  Two hours and a trip through customs later, my feet hit the cobblestoned streets of Lisbon, Portugal.  Temporal and spatial regularities ceased to exist; the city seemed timeless, the air felt, oddly, both British and Spanish at the same time. 

            I had arrived. 

            Six months prior, I had arranged that arrival to precede my fellow graduate students by a day, maybe two at the most.  I wanted a chance to acquaint myself with the city; I wanted the opportunity to forget the states.  More than anything, I wanted a cheaper ticket. 

Low-Res MFA for Novelists

By Derek Nikitas, Director, Bluegrass Writers Studio

Some fiction writers are born novelists. Your idea-seed blossoms into a full-blown sycamore overnight. No delicate rose bushes for you. Luckily, The Bluegrass Writers Studio low-residency MFA program has a place for folks like you and me.

Say you’ve got a thick stack of manuscript pages tied up in a box (or filed away on Dropbox, or still waiting in the database called your brain). It needs work, and you want readers, you want mentorship. Say you’ve built a rich fantasy world, or your own unique vision of Appalachia or Los Angeles, but you need to find some narrative scaffolding.

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