Bill Rabkin (S)
Electric Gunslingers, Mutant Townsfolk and Christ in a Zoot Suit: How Genres Die and What Happens Next. It seems like every third movie these days is based on a comic book, but twenty years ago it would have been a romantic comedy, ten years before that a buddy cop film, and for the rest of film history, a western. We use our dominant genres to retell and reinforce our culture’s foundational myths. But at some point the culture shifts and those myths come into question, the genre must shift, too, or lose relevance. But when that cultural shift is so great it renders the genre’s basic assumptions unsupportable, what happens to that genre? First it is stretched to accommodate the new ideas, until its essence becomes so altered as to be unrecognizable. Then it explodes, loosing artworks that could never have been created while the genre was constrained by its former limitations. And then finally, with all meaning finally leached from the form, it dies. Is this the inevitable fate of the superhero movie – and if so, what is that death going to look like?
Mary Yukari Waters (F)
HOW TO WRITE DESCRIPTIONS THAT WON’T SLOW DOWN YOUR STORY
Physical description is important and necessary. It grounds us in the fictional world; it adds authenticity and authority. However, the truth is that readers (ourselves included) are often tempted to skim over those exquisitely rendered descriptions in order to get to the “good part.” In this lecture, we will examine various examples of description: the boring, the so-so, and the highly effective. We will discuss what causes readers to lose interest. The goal here is for you to walk out of the lecture with concrete skills that you can put to use right away.
Friday, June 5
9:00: All Student Orientation
10:00 Faculty Lecture: Jill Alexander Essbaum (P)
Handbag, Pocketbook, Clutch, Purse:
The Pleasure in Discovering the Exact Right Word
The Gratification of Finding the Perfect Phrase
The Joy of Lex
Words matter. Words mean. Words matter and mean differently. Every word matters and means differently. Let’s look at all what goes into choosing le mot juste—what it buys you if you find it, and what it costs you if you don’t.
11:00: Guest Faculty Lecture: Patrick Coleman (F)
Sentence and Structure: Lessons on Revision from Raymond Chandler (and My Own Fuck-Ups)First drafts can be joyful to write—”this might be the best thing I’ve ever written!”—and also, in retrospect, pretty uniformly disappointing. Raymond Chandler said, “Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.” This talk, geared for novelists but good for short story/nonfiction writers, too, won’t follow Chandler’s process literally (thankfully). Instead, we’re going to explore how to find pleasure and deeper meaning in the long, rich process of revision. We’re going to move from surviving the first draft and playing with language and point of view across successive drafts to finding freedom in structure and restructuring. The goal: to make your revision process one of pleasure, discovery, and excitement—and to end up with a book that is better and richer and more meaningful than you would have predicted on the day you put down your first word.
11:00: Guest Faculty Lecture: Matt Groesch & Sean Berard (S)
Trying To Sell TV & Movies In The Middle of A Vast Global Pandemic. We know you’re worried. We’re worried, too. In this talk, we’ll discuss the marketplace with two professionals who are out there trying to get things sold and made.
3:00: Guest Faculty Lecture: George Morgan (NF)
Researching the Unresearchable: How to Uncover the Buried and Guarded Secrets Needed for your Book or Memoir. While researching his lost legacy book Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist, George discovered that not only were libraries and the internet almost useless when it came to uncovering information on someone who had not been famous during their lifetime, but that government and corporate obligations of secrecy blocked most other attempts to perform the research needed for an adequate memoir. This problem even exists with those who did enjoy some celebrity, the life of Leon Russell (George’s current memoir subject) being a prime example. In this discussion George will talk about ways in which biographical information can be coaxed out of the ether without breaking into government buildings, hacking corporate computers, or torturing reluctant witnesses.
4:00: The Coachella Review Needs You!
Do you want publishing experience? Do you want to be part of one of the top literary magazines on the planet? Do you want to know what goes into a story, essay, or poem actually getting published? Do you want to graduate with the word “editor” on your resume? Do you want to spend a lot of time with Gina Frangello? Then you must come to this meeting.
5:00: Graduate Lecture: Jaime Parker Stickle (F)
Bitch or Badass? The Importance of Unlikeable Female Protagonists.
What makes a female protagonist unlikeable? After parsing the list of characteristics critics and readers label as “unlikeable” in a female character, one glaring contradiction is that their male character counterparts mirror all these characteristics, yet instead of being labeled “unlikeable,” they are dubbed an “antihero.” This lecture will explore why it is important to continue to write flawed female characters, rather than tropes of women, to break down these labels. We are not here to make friends; we are here to write about interesting characters inhabiting an authentic human experience.
5:40: Graduate Lecture: Pamela Pete (P)
That’s Not A Sonnet! The life and breath of the traditional sonnet is a full thought and conclusion; it is deliberate and pure. Yet, because it is one of the most popular poetry forms that has lasted the ages, everyone with any poetical inclination gives the style a try during their spare time. The classic sonnet is not a spare time poem form. This lecture is a short discussion of the history of sonnets along with a more indebt look at what makes sonnets work. My argument is that some poems recognized as sonnets do not have the critical components of sonnets and therefore are not sonnets at all. Also given, is this poet’s view on why it is important to differentiate and acknowledge this stance.
Saturday June 6
10:00 Faculty Lecture: John Schimmel (S)
Don’t save the cat, save your script. Craft is to writing what scales are to jazz, and knowing it (but also knowing when to break away from the “rules”) helped John avoid disappointing the Dalai Lama. And if John can avoid disappointing the Dalai Lama, he can surely help you from disappointing a standard non-enlightened producer…
10:00: Guest Faculty Lecture: Sandy Smith (all)
Self-Editing. Not A Euphemism. Pretty soon, you’ll have graduated and you’ll need to know how to do all of this without all of this. In this talk, professional editor Sandy Smith will walk you through the process of fixing your own work, at home, without a bunch of people telling you what needs to be fixed.
11:00: Guest Faculty Lecture: Rachel Howzell Hall (F)
The Complexities of Heroes and Villains In Mystery: No one is all of one thing. So how do you make villains and heroes equally complex? Equally compelling? And how do you use them to your advantage when writing fiction? Using techniques from mystery fiction, we’ll examine how to make these complex characters come alive in your work.
4:00: Graduate Lecture: Michael Long (F)
The Game of Thrones Lecture: Exploring the Search for Meaning in the World of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, with its willingness to kill off main characters and usurpation of typical plotting, is a saga often noted for its Nihilism. In this lecture we will reexamine this interpretation. First, we will explore and acknowledge the indifferent nature of the universe Martin creates. Then we will see how the characters who populate Martin’s story operate and construct their own artifices of meaning within this chaos. In the process, we will recast A Song of Ice and Fire as governed by an ethos closer to Humanism than Nihilism and see how the fundamental tension between these two philosophical thoughts lends significance to the story’s action.
4:40: Graduate Lecture: Brian Asman (F)
Making a Monster. Horror fiction is packed to the gills with monsters, but what separates classic beasts from the legions of forgotten paperback ghouls? Why do some monsters become a part of our cultural memory, while others fade into obscurity? And more importantly, how do we keep our monsters from falling into the latter category? In this lecture, I’ll teach you how to build and introduce an effective monster, one who will scare but more importantly intrigue audiences. We’ll address sympathies, weaknesses, trope subversion, and the all-important Splash of Humanity.
Sunday June 7
9:30 Graduate Lecture: Wendy Maxon(F)
Concepts of the Split Self in the Literature of Ryu Murakami and Haruki Murakami. In many of their works we find the surprising but consistent reference to the facades we build and the true identities that lurk deep inside us. This theme remains popular in modern Japanese literature and may have particular relevance given Japan’s unique historical circumstances and cultural values. Nevertheless, the image functions in varying ways and is often experienced differently by male and female characters. Both Murakamis complicate the concept of the split self and tackle what happens when outer appearance and inner psychology come into conflict, but they differ in their opinions about its nature, the types of social norms that such guises allow us to uphold, and whether delving below such artificial masks is ultimately a positive or negative act.
10:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Mark Sarvas (F)
No Respect: Writing Comic Fiction. Writing funny is serious business. So how do you kill without making people moan? We’ll figure that out right here.
10:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Tom Provost (S)
Disclosure of Information. Disclosure of Information is the essence of storytelling. Every choice a writer makes on the page, in movies and fiction, reveals information to theaudience or reader. How to reveal, when to reveal and why… these questions are of the utmost importance. Even a thirty-second purposeful delay in disclosure can affect a narrative in powerful ways, good and bad. How to gauge disclosure of information and what the effect will be on the audience/reader are the focus of this lecture, helping the writer determine the manner in which each and every piece of information in a story is revealed.
11:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Sheila Callaghan (Pl)
Playwriting in an Age of Social Distancing and Social Upheaval Award-winning playwright and television writer Sheila Callaghan will discuss the current state of live theater in conversation with Mickey Birnbaum. It’s a complicated and challenging world for playwrights. We’re wondering, among many other things, if theater can survive without access to live venues? How will playwrights evolve and adapt to meet the restrictions and opportunities of the online environment? What can playwrights do to focus and be productive under stressful and often enraging circumstances? What kind of response can we muster in the face of national chaos, climate change, and the pandemic? Callaghan and Birnbaum will figure it all out, and as a special bonus we’ll talk about how much fun it is to break out of the prison of realistic writing and innovate with language and imagery.
11:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Robin Burcell (All)
How Cops Walk, How Cops Talk. The first thing you need to know? It’s not like how you see it on TV. In this seminar, bestselling-novelist Robin Burcell leans on her three decades of working in law enforcement as a police officer, hostage negotiator, criminal investigator and FBI Academy-trained forensic artist to tell you how to make the cops in your books and screenplays realistic. A can’t miss for those of you writing crime stories.
4:00: David Hyde & Maggie Downs (All)
Becoming A Big Time Famous Writer…By Getting the Right Publicity. Publicist David Hyde breaks down the secrets for breaking big in the world, using our own Maggie Downs as an object lesson.
Monday June 8
9:00 Graduate Lecture: Anjali Becker (F)
World Matters: A Taxonomy of Fantasy Worlds. World building is the bedrock of every successful fantasy story. A poorly drawn world can sink an excellent premise, while a richly imagined, evocative one can elevate even the most straightforward plot. In this lecture, we’ll explore the foundational types of worlds encountered in fantasy stories and break down common methods authors employ to explain their worlds to readers.
9:40 Graduate Lecture: Emmet Browne (F)
Writing Thrillers with an Emotional Core. In this lecture we’re going to discuss the narrative decisions made by contemporary thriller writers to develop meaningful stories and three-dimensional characters.
10:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Ashley Mag Gabbert (P)
Building with Tombstones: On Revival and Revision. I am very excited about this metaphor, which compares the parts or appendages of dead poem drafts to grave materials. Maybe that’s because, when a poem isn’t working, there isn’t much to be excited about overall. It’s disheartening to cobble together a few hours to finally write in-between work, family time, and every other obligation, only to realize the words you’ve written are lifeless. In this interactive talk, we’ll identify the qualities a draft might need in order to be resuscitated, we’ll triage the labor that constitutes diligent craftsmanship versus wasted, useless efforts, and we’ll unearth new methods for salvaging a draft’s remaining good kidney—or the heart that’s still beating. How can we successfully transplant, transfuse, or even transform old lines into new bodies of work? How can we dismantle and reassemble without creating a monster? When is it time to pull the plug, and how do we know whether a poem is ready to breathe and speak?
10:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Jasper Grey (S)
The Production Slate: We’ll discuss trends and needs.
11:00 Faculty Lecture: Rob Roberge (NF)
Plenty of Confession–Not Enough Connection: How do Writers Make Their Experiences Bigger than Themselves? The job of a memoir is not simply to record the events of the author’s life. Successful memoirs are always about more than just their subject and their subject’s events and traumas–they’re not just a series of events laid out before the reader. Often, many memoirs are reduced to naval-gazing. How do our stories connect and live in dialog with a world bigger than the author and the events of their life? How do we use ourselves to write about the world, instead of using the world to only write about ourselves?
11:00: Anthony McCann (P)
World*History*Time (A three-part Conversation about some poems and ideas. This is not a lecture, come prepared to chat informally. The three parts of the conversation are not directly related. But that, we will likely find, is not really true. We will read poems by Maureen Owen, Amiri Baraka, Paul Celan and George Oppen and think about two key quotes on the American experience of history from James Baldwin and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
12:00 Faculty Lecture: Tod Goldberg (F)
Writing the Franchise: Creating characters and plots that can last for more than one book without boring the readers is one of the keys to writing genre fiction. We’ll look at some of the craft requirements needed to get readers to follow your characters through several books and stories…and how to write characters that might make Hollywood decide your books and stories are right for them, too.
Tuesday June 9
9:00: Guest Faculty Lecture: Guy Nicolucci (S)
Writing Those Basic-Cable Movies You Don’t Admit To Watching But Which We All Know You Do: The last few years have seen a peculiar rise in the popularity of movies on Lifetime and Hallmark. They get watched and rewatched and rewatched into perpetuity. How do you break into this lucrative and emerging market? Guy Nicollucci knows all the secrets and the format required.
9:00: Guest Faculty Lecture: Michael Torres (P)
Poetry of the Inevitable. In “Poetry of the Inevitable” we’ll discuss artistic obsession, what it means when we keep going back to that same story or experience, and the importance of this recurrence. We’ll talk about nuance and newness, and we’ll take a look at a couple examples of poems where obsession successfully plays out on the page.
11:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Tembi Locke in conversation with David Ulin(NF)
Tembi’s debut memoir From Scratch combined food, love, loss, and living again into one amazing package. In this conversation we’ll talk about how she turned her life into the pages of a compulsively readable memoir.
12:00: Jamison Stoltz & Carina Guiterman & Mary Evans in conversation with Tod Goldberg (F/NF)
The Publishing Landscape Seems Scary. Is It? We’ll force Abrams Executive Editor Jamison Stoltz and Simon & Schuster Editor Carina Guiterman and agent Mary Evans to tell us the truth or we won’t let them out of the Zoom box.
Wednesday June 10
9:00: Graduate Lecture: Martin Cossio (P)
The Poem and Its 8 1/2” x 11” Canvas. When you hear the word “poem” do you think about the way a poem sounds or the way a poem looks? Are they the same thing? Or does the way a poem look inform the way it sounds? Join me for a crash course on sound amplification vis-à-vis the page.
9:40: Graduate Lecture: Patricia Forg (F)
The Modern Tradition: You’re Not That Original. How many times have you watched a Disney movie and had some snob tell you, “Well, you should read the original Grimm stories, they’re way dark”? How many times have you been that snob? Well, they’re wrong, and probably so were you. Not only were the Grimms not ‘original’, but the dismissal of modern variations of these stories neglects their history and the ever-changing oral tradition from which they were created. Old fairy-tales like Little Red Riding Hood and ancient classics like The Odyssey are just versions of the stories that were once told in courts or around campfires. Many contemporary authors including Margaret Atwood, Helen Oyeyemi, and Angela Carter find inspiration in these ancient or traditional tales, and through their own work both explore (and explode) and reinvent (and reinvigorate) these old and well-known stories. The resulting fictions don’t dismiss their origins, rather they contribute to the enduring legacies of their predecessors– all while maintaining originality and style as praiseworthy as the Grimms…
11:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Chiwan Choi (P)
What I Meant To Say. We write because there is something we want to say. Something we need to say. Whether it is anger or love or confusion or grief, we need to just express it. So—why
don’t we just say it? Why do we spend so many words and stanzas and pages and even volumes to say it? Together we will discuss and explore how our craft as poets both allow us and prevent us from saying what we meant to say, including a quick writing exercise in which we will really think about what can be left out, what is essential, and what is just us messing around with craft over content.
4:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Chad Gomez Creasey (S)
What Is It Like To Be The Executive Producer Of One Of The Top Rated Shows in America? (And How One Gets There). We’ll sit down with Chad Gomez Creasey to talk network television, what it’s like to be one of the producers of a top-rated show, how to get staffed, how to be in the room, and more!
Thursday June 11
9:00: Graduate Lecture: Cooper Gillespie (NF)
HOW CAN I MAKE THEM HEAR ME? Rock’n’roll was born out of the patriarchal culture of the 1950s and continues to be a male-driven industry. Historically, both rock memoirs and rock journalism have been male-dominated endeavors. While societal expectations have evolved a great deal since the birth of rock’n’roll, women are still judged through the lens of the male perspective, seen as women first and musicians, journalists, or fans second. There are more female musicians and fans publishing memoirs and more female rock journalists writing criticism than ever before. Their presence, both as players and commentators, illuminates the incongruous nature of a tradition that simultaneously frees and subjugates women. This lecture examines how we can transform the literature and experience of rock’n’roll from a boys’ club to a shared art form which includes both men’s and women’s perspectives.
9:40: Graduate Lecture: Lindsay Jamieson (F)
In the Interest of Truth: Writing Autobiographical Fiction and Enhancing Fiction with Autobiographical Details. Why write an autobiographical novel when you could write memoir instead? Why set fiction in your hometown, or include characters from your past rather than imagine an entirely new world? Authors writing “true” stories may wish to spare loved ones, extricate themselves from the narrative, or strengthen themes and arcs. Others infuse their fiction with facets of their lives for texture and authenticity. We write to convey our truths; often fiction helps sharpen the translation. In this lecture, I will examine works by Sylvia Plath, Tim O’Brien, and James Joyce, writers who expertly crafted fiction based on experiences in their lives.
11:00 Critic-in-Residence Lecture: Heather Scott Partington (All)
The Hot Seat: How To Be Interviewed. You’ve made it. You’ve sold your book/movie/tv show/play. One of the top critics in your field has asked to interview you. You don’t want to mess this up. Well, you’re in luck. Heather Partington is going to help you with this. You might enjoy watching her interview a litany of literary giants live as part of Alta Magazine’s Alta Asks series, which you can watch here: https://altaonline.com/alta-asks-live/
12:00: Michael Wiegers in conversation with Jill Alexander Essbaum (P)
A conversation with Copper Canyon Press executive editor Michael Weigers about publishing, the marketplace, what Copper Canyon is looking for, and what it’s like to have your authors win Pulitzer Prizes.
12:00: Faculty Lecture: Stephen Graham Jones (F)
WHAT IF YOUR DIALOGUE WASN’T TERRIBLE? We all know how to speak and carry on conversation, but once we introduce tag lines and and contracts with the reader and all the pitfalls and pratfalls involved with staging a conversation on the page, writing compelling, efficient dialogue can get tricky. In here we’ll run through how to do it less wrong. There may not be a single right way, but there are a lot of problems we can identify, and some workarounds to make your dialogue in fiction less terrible. We won’t be doing any writing exercises. We might have some dialogue.
7pm: Student Reading Presented by The Coachella Review
Virtually Yours: Writing About Distance:
Join The Coachella Review and students from the MFA program in our live Zoom reading! Please come
share your work! Up to 5 minutes on the theme of distance—however you interpret it! Emcee’d by Katie Gilligan and Collin Mitchell, with faculty editor Gina Frangello. Please email email@example.com to sign up for a slot! We will also feature 3 writers from the Summer 2020 issue of The Coachella Review. Bring your beverages of choice and hang out with your peers in a laid back setting of sharing work and enjoying community!
Friday June 12
11:00: Guest Faculty Lecture: Matt Almos (PL)
11:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Alexandra Barreto (S)
Nothing Short About It: How to Use A Short Film For A Creative Calling Card. Writer/Actor/Producer/Director Alexandra Barreto will talk about her short film LADY HATER and how you can use you a short film as a sample for your creative work.
12:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Mike Sonksen (P, NF)
Letters to Our City. Letters to Our City is a multimedia performance talk and workshop utilizing public history, geographic literacy and autoethnography to celebrate the city and inspire participants to write about their own lives creatively. Presenting poetry and excerpts of creative nonfiction from his book Letters to My City, the KCET poet, essayist, professor & tour guide Mike Sonksen believes in sharing authority and that we all have the right to the city.
12:00 Dinah Lenney in conversation with Mary Otis (NF)
Dinah Lenney has spent her career examining herself, her family, and the objects we often take for granted around us…and turned it all into some of the most compelling nonfiction of our time. In her latest book, Coffee, she looks at something we all love.
4:00 Graduate Lecture: Glen Helfand (NF)
TMI? Minutiae and myopia in memoir. Let’s face it, memoir is a self-involved, potentially self-indulgent genre. The trick is to make the material resonate beyond a personal bubble. Looking at books that take completist approach to a form of self-portraiture. Cataloging the contents of a Paris apartment (Thomas Clerc’s Interior) or recounting more than a decade’s worth of online hook-ups (People I’ve Met From the Internet by Stephen Van Dyck) turn out to be surprisingly intriguing, and generous literary strategies.
Saturday June 13
10:00 Guest Lecture: Liska Jacobs (F)
Writing the Second Novel. You spend your entire life planning to write your first book. You have 18 months to write your second. How on earth do you do that? Don’t worry. Liska Jacobs is on it.
11:00 Guest Lecture: Rider Strong (S)
Writing Dialog Actors Can Actually Say. There’s a famous story about Harrison Ford threating to tie up George Lucas and making him say his own lines, at gun point. Well, you want to avoid that. But how? Screenwriter/Actor/Direcotr Rider Strong is going to help you out.
12:00 Faculty Lecture: Elizabeth Crane (F/N/S)
Adapting Yourself. You’ve written your book. You want to turn it into a screenplay. What are the pitfalls? What are the plusses? What are the minuses? How do you cut yourself without bleeding on the page?
1:00: Graduate Lecture: Daphne Nikolopoulos (F)
THE STORIES WE CAN’T STOP TELLING: Reanimating Myth in a Contemporary Literary Context. Gods and mortals, heroes and monsters, passion and power, treachery and tragedy—and that’s just the opening scene. The myths of antiquity were masterful narratives that explored the themes that have been universal to humans since the dawn of time. They’ve also defined the narrative structures and literary devices (irony! allegory! flashback!) that are the basis of our craft. No wonder myths are still with us millennia later, and keep getting reimagined through a contemporary lens. In this lecture, we will examine the parallel structures and themes between three ancient texts—Beowulf, The Odyssey, Oedipus Rex—and their twisted contemporary retellings, which are classics in their own right.
1:40: Graduate Lecture: Andrew Navarro (P)
Unlocking the Real Through Dictation. In this lecture we will discuss Jack Spicer’s concept of poetry and his belief in dictation. We will bring into question our relationship to words and explore how and why poetry is necessary for the understanding of “the real.” In examining this relationship, we will also expand on ways one can approach the process of writing a poem through being open and attentive to the living inheritance that is our language.
4:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Dara Hyde (All)
Writing the Query Letter. It’s a science. Dara has the chemicals. And the bunson burner. And other science words that none of us know the actual meaning of.
Sunday June 14
10:00 Faculty Lecture: Deanne Stillman (NF/PL)
Discussing “Billy the Kid and Lee Harvey Oswald Praise Citizenship in the American Dreamtime” Please watch Deanne’s short play first. And then we’ll talk about it, about writing across genres,
10:00: Faculty Lecture: Mark Haskell Smith (F/NF)
That’s The Idea. Where do ideas come from? How do you know a good story idea from a not-so-good one? And when we do find a germ of an idea, how do we turn that into a narrative? In this seminar we’ll discuss process, story incubation, strategies for nurturing ideas, and maybe answer the question: are great ideas really a dime a dozen?
11:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Katherine MacDonald (S)
12:00 Special Graduate Virtual Sad Lunch