Okay, so, for the weekend, I’d like you to read these. The first is my 4th draft of “We Did this to Him.” Note the changes in tone, perspective, event, etc. Then you can go through and note the final changes in the published draft. For your comment (due Monday please) discuss briefly the following:

1. How have the changes from the original I gave you last week and this final draft changed your perspective on the story? Do you believe one is better than the other? Can they exist separate from each other? Which do you believe is ultimately more successful and why.

A rough draft of We Did This To Him – with notes from the editor.

The final draft, now called “Stillwater” at Burnt Bridges Press.

Secondly, here is a brief story by Amy Hempel called “The Harvest.” It’s very short. Have it read by Wednesday and leave a second comment here. The question is: how has the writer broken the “fourth wall” as we call it in cinema? What I mean by that is that the story quickly becomes aware of itself as a story. Do you like or dislike that? Discuss this move in general. Let me know if it’s something you enjoy or if you think it’s lame.

You are free to do both at the same time, or comment on the first part and then come back before Wednesday to comment on the Hempel story.

I hope this post isn’t horribly confusing. Email me if you have questions.

P.S. I added a new section up top called “workshop schedule.” It is just what it says it is. If you are up for workshop on Wednesday or Friday of next week, please email me your stories by Monday morning so I can get them up.

P.P.S. We will be talking about Workshop a lot on Monday. It’s an important class day so try not to miss. Don’t miss any days of class. Class rules.


Here’s a word document of a very early draft of a story I wrote last year. This version is called We Did This to Him. That’s a word file, click on it and it should download onto your computer. Let me know if anything goes wrong or you need me to email it to you directly.

I want you to read this and comment on it the way we will one day do with each others stories in workshop. In the comments field, could you please: 1. Say at least two things about the story that you think are working. 2. List at least two things that you think are not working / could be changed / need improvement. There’s no need to be shy as I have already perfected and published this story. Do your worst.

Get these comments up by Monday, please. Note that I have made another blog post directly under this one re: conferences. Don’t not see that.

Finally, be sure to come back to the site on Monday for the next installment of this story to be read and commented on by Wednesday.

Does it all add up? Does everything make sense? Get to reading, kids.

We’ll be meeting in my office, LA229. Look in contact section of the syllabus for directions to the building. For the conferences please bring everything that you’ve turned in and handed to me, along with specific questions you have about my comments, your work, etc. In the conferences we will talk about what you’ve written so far and what you hope to write in the future. I’ll give you back your most recent assignments and you will sign up for your first Workshopping slot. I’ll tell you where you stand in the class in terms of a grade / absences, etc. It promises to be a fun time.

Here’s the conference schedule for next week, March 7 and 9th.

Monday / Wednesday

10:00 Ryan / Kari

10:10 Brooke / Tori

10:20 OPEN / Bill

10:30 Stephanie / Tess

10:40 Erika / Tiffany

10:50 Sofi / Angela

11:00 Hannah / Ford

11:10 OPEN / OPEN

11:20 OPEN / OPEN

11:30 Tyler / Michael

11:40 OPEN / Shannon

11:50 OPEN / Madison

12:00 Breanna / OPEN

please email me asap if you’re not on the list to schedule a time. Missing conferences counts as an absence. Make sure you know where you’re going and you’re on time.

For those of you lucky enough to be in class today – I don’t know what happened. One thing led to another and we just spent the whole hour trolling for babes on the Internet. I mean, sort of.

We looked at the missoula craigslist, mostly in the “missed connections” section for found, unintentional gems of literature. I thought we would write some craigslist ads of our own in class but we didn’t get to it. SO, for Friday, in addition to your Assignment #4: Character Story, (if you want particulars about this assignment please email someone from class) I want you to bring a fake craigslist ad.  Familiar yourself with “conventions of the genre” i.e. look at craigslist ads to see how they are written. Exploit them. You can use a found heading as your title or make up one on your own. You needn’t limit yourself to Missoula’s listings. There’s a wide world out there.


I want you to work on the stories you started in class on Friday and please bring a draft on Monday for to workshop with your group. Typed, double spaced please, for your readers’ sake. Basic guidelines I went over in class:

  • 1 to 3 pages (up to 5 if you must)
  • Use at least 2 and up to 5 of the characters you received from your groups
  • Put them in a compelling setting
  • Give them an obstacle to overcome
  • Think about your characters motivations
  • Write something beautiful and interesting

As for reading, I will give you until Wednesday to comment here, but here’s what I want you to do: Go through the past posts and read something I’ve linked on the site that you haven’t yet read. By Wednesday, come back here and tell me something interesting about the reading. Here’s a brand new story called An Elegy for Dust and Flight, if you’ve read everything on the site. Although how can that be?

Correction: The link to the reading is broken I’ve heard?  Try copying and pasting this!


We did that weird thing in class with the randomly generated characters, remember? As far as I can see everyone was in class today so everything should go smoothly for Friday. You will have shared contact information with the members of your group. Make sure you email your group your character sketches by tonight (today is wednesday.) This will give everyone time to print off descriptions to bring to class for more writing on Friday.  Make sure you don’t forget: you will let everyone down! The moon will freeze! The plants will die!

Read this tiny little piece by David Foster Wallace called “Assett.” No response required at this time, but beware, I might randomly point at you in class and ask you telling questions about the work, which is to say, read it.

Have you sent me your profile information? If you haven’t, or if you did, and your profile is still not up in the people section, please do that soon. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, that’s what I say?

See you on Friday, friends.


This email is to inform you that the deadline for your students to submit to The Oval, UM’s Undergraduate Literary Magazine, has been extended to next Sunday, Feb. 27th because of blah.

Undergraduate students may submit up to three pieces to each of the following categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry, Art/Photography.

They must be undergraduates currently enrolled at UM.

Submissions can be sent via the following link: http://umt.edu/theoval/submissions.aspx

Students may contact us via email at: Oval.Editor@mso.umt.edu.

Blah blah blah, it would be greatly appreciated. We’re excited for this year’s publication!

Have a great day,

Some Great Man
Business Editor, The Oval

Look at this picture my brother took and posted on facebook. I love it. Just stare at it for hours and think about your life and art and whether or not there’s a God and if so what does she look like and stuff.

Now onto the business at hand. I gave you a hard copy of the story “Congress” by Joy Williams.

Comment/question of the day, to be posted before our next class on Wednesday: Consider the four principle characters of the story. There is Miriam, Jack, Carl, and the Taxidermist whose name I forget. I want you to choose one of these people and give me a character sketch on them. What are they like? What are some of their traits? What do you imagine they look like or does it matter? What do they WANT? (This is an essential question an author should always ask: what is my character’s motivation?) I want you to make inferences here, and by that I mean say stuff about them that is not explicitly stated in the text. Example: “I think that Jack loves jazz and has a complicated relationship with his father.” The more out there you get, the better. Be as creative or as boring about it as you want.

Here’s a few other stories for you to read over the weekend if you get bored. To Build a Fire, by Jack London. This is a boy story. I can’t get through it. I would love for somebody to read it and tell me what it’s about in the comments and see if maybe I should make the rest of the class read it. I think there’s a dog involved. I love dogs.

Here’s a story I wrote for thumbnail magazine called Look Out. I also do blog posts for them about writing. It’s sort of depressing.

Next, I’ll give you a link to Franz Kafka’s story The Metamorphosis which is an absurd thing to do because it’s like 60 pages long, really more of a novella. If you’re really interested in reading the whole thing I would check it out from the library. But even just reading the first few pages online will give you a sense of what a nutbar he is, and when I mention him in class you can say “oh right, that guy who turned into a bug.” He can’t turn the doorknob cuz he doesn’t have hands anymore! It’s a metaphor for something!

Have a good weekend! Do lots of reading and writing.

I gave you a copy of “Chef’s House” by Raymond Carver. I know last time I told you I was going to put stories in my mailbox and then didn’t, but this time, I assure you, I already did. LA133, before 5pm. Be there or be square.

You can also, if you prefer, listen to the story on the now famous New Yorker Fiction Podcast. Follow le link. You may want to listen to this just for fun, as there is interesting commentary before and after.

Comment Question of the day regarding this story: What does the narrator mean by the very last line? What do you think the couples’ future looks like? Cite specific things in the text that leads you to this conclusion.

Raymond Carver teaches us about this “conversational language” thing I keep talking about and have the hardest time explaining. His language is sparse, simple, and to the point. People have said there is no art in it. I think those people are stupid but I suppose it’s up for debate. If you love Raymond Carver and want more, here’s something he wrote later in his career, after he got sober. Much like Aerosmith and other rock legends of our time, I think the work suffers a little in sobriety. That story is called “A Small Good Thing.” Feel free to tell me what you thought of that in the comments as well, if you choose to read.

Also Due Friday: Assignment #3: Dialogue

It’s really simple, just write me something compelling that uses a lot of dialogue. You can use any of the prompts/writing exercises we did in class, you may develop your found transcript, or you can turn in something else entirely, as long as dialogue is featured. I have restricted you to 1-3 pages typed. Be sure to also make this double spaced, properly formatted, beautiful and excellent, with page numbers and a glorious title. I am really looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Please also turn in your original “found dialogue/transcript” along with the assignment. I would really like to see them just for my own edification.

Let me know if you have any questions on this assignment. Just try to relax and have fun with it, whilst simultaneously incorporating the many, many tips and writers do’s and don’ts I layed out for you in class today.

Finally: I put the photo prompt from today in a separate blog post under this one. Don’t be all “I didn’t see it so I didn’t do it.” Scroll down. There he is.

That’s all! Do all that. See you Friday!

Please leave your stories/captions/ideas regarding this photo in the comments field. BTW, I have nothing against hipsters. I don’t mean to pick on this poor kid; I was just looking for a picture of a dude on the Internet in an outrageous outfit. Voila.