As for “Hills Like White Elephants”: It’s an abortion, people. She’s going to get an abortion and it has ruined their relationship. They drink too much. The hills are probably metaphors for something but I’m not sure what. Also, in Citizen Kane: Rosebud is a sled. It’s just a sled. It doesn’t mean much. If you haven’t commented on this story yet, go back and do so.

Please read “Blue Boy” by Kevin Canty and comment by answering the following questions. Please get these responses up by Wednesday before class. I will leave extra photocopies of this story in my mailbox in the english department office, LA133.

Blue Boy questions:
1. What is the story trying to say about class? How does it do that? Give at least one example from the text.
2. How does Kenny change during the story? Do you think the change is permanent? Why or why not. See if you can’t pinpoint a specific scene wherein he discovers something and takes action.
3. Look back at what we’ve learned about narrative modes. Identify how “Blue Boy” is told in terms of: view, voice, structure, and tense.

Okay everyone? Please email me if you have any questions.


For the weekend:

Please read the paper copy I gave you in class of “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway. What on earth are they talking about? How does it make you feel? Leave a brief comment discussing the process of discovery you went through reading this piece.

Writing Assignment 3.a

Like I said in class:
I want you to eavesdrop/overhear/try to remember a conversation and dictate it to me. Just use a standard format like so:

Person A: I am talking to person B
Person B: Yes, you are. And we are having a lovely time of it.

Give them better names than that. Think “Pumpkin” and “Honey Bunny.” Just a page is fine. We’re going to be using these in class and you will be asked to share them so keep that in mind.

And finally, here are some of the clips we watched in class featuring great dialogue/monologue, and a few we didn’t get to.

husbands and wives first scene

hannah and her sisters

crimes and misdemeanors

the last temptation of christ

out of sight trunk scene

pulp fiction diner scene

synechdoche, new york

I gave you a paper copy of the Denis Johnson very short story “Steady Hands at Seattle General,” in class today. I have three hard copies left; if you are on campus today (thursday) before 5, or if you come by early Friday morning, you can pick up one of the copies from my mailbox in the english dept, LA133. Have the nice secretary help you find my mailbox if for some reason your eyeballs can’t find my mailbox. It’s really short and you will be a better person for having read it.

Friday we’re watching clips from films all day that showcase dialogue, because dialogue rules.

Here’s some elective reading I’ve been meaning to pass your way. They are all written by my esteemed peers.

Doesn’t Rock, by Ted McDermott
Turns out “doesn’t rock” is a double entendre but not a sexual one. Do entendres have to be sexual? I just checked, and wikipedia says no. Look at how much work this story does in so few words.

Our Own Flesh and Blood, by Becky Margolis
I hope you like palindromes!

Green Room, by Kristen Gleason
Kristen is a word wizard. Don’t look for traditional narrative/storytelling in this piece. Approach it like a poem. Kristen might really hate me for saying that, but I think it’s good advice. The story’s meaning lands in your stomach subconsciously rather than unfolding through action.

Let me know what you think of anything you read here. They are all very short and wonderful in their own way. You needn’t compare and contrast them, although you can.

There will be a reading assignment for the weekend, but what? I don’t know! Stay tuned.

Writing Assignment #2

prompt: Famous first sentences OR Immediate action.

For your second writing assignment, I want a 1-5 page story (word processed, double spaced, blah blah blah. Do NOT go over 5 pages or else something really bad will happen).  Think about traditional narrative, think about character, setting, scene.  Give your characters a motivation, an obstacle to overcome.  Make them richer for the experience, or not. Try to entertain your audience.  Use crisp, economic language.  Do your best.

On Monday, we will be pairing off and sharing our initial drafts in class.  Bring something legible and fit for consumption by at least one of your peers.  Typed would probably be preferred.  If what you have on Monday is not complete, be sure to come with questions/ideas for where to take the story next.  I want you to get used to sharing your work with others and receiving feedback.

You’ll be turning in a draft to me on Wednesday, February 9th.

First sentence prompts from class:

  • A screaming comes across the sky.
  • This is the saddest story I’ve ever heard.
  • All this happened, more or less.
  • It was the day my grandmother exploded.
  • Elmer Ganty was drunk.
  • It was a pleasure to burn.
  • It was love at first sight.
  • Joey felt his romance with Daisy might ruin his life, but that didn’t stop him.
  • Miss Brook had the kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
  • The first thing I remember is being under something.

If you have any first sentence prompts of your own, please to share them in the comments.  Here’s a link to some more.

Weekend reading / Listening

“A & P” by John Updike

A nice, innocent, heroic story.  Think about language when reading this piece.

“Two Men” by Denis Johnson

This is an audio link to a story about a man of questionable moral character.  I want you to challenge yourself by attempting to, if not relate to the character, at least try to understand his motivations for doing things.

Leave a comment by Monday. Discuss your emotional reaction to both pieces, briefly, succinctly and beautifully.

Sorry, no, this is next week. Apparently there’s a football game on tonight…. ?
Finally: Second Wind Reading, This Sunday @6:30 at The Top Hat. My friend and great writer Becky Margolis is reading fiction, and then there’s some poet who I don’t remember.  I’m going to keep asking you to come to these things, whether it turns out fruitful or not.

Hi everyone.  No real homework for now.  Just please go back to the first post and finish listening to the story “Last Night” by James Salter via the New Yorker Fiction podcast.  In class we left off exactly at 18:58.  Here’s a fun tip:  If you go to Itunes and search for “new yorker fiction podcast” you can download the episode and listen to it on your mobile devices.  It’s a really wonderful podcast full of some of the best short stories around.  They’re great to listen to when you’re walking around campus, doing other things, etc.  Listening to a story is a whole new kind of exhilarating experience, in my opinion.

Also, educate yourself on narrative modes whynot.  Narrative Modes.

And here’s an “extra credit”, only if you feel like it, sexy, smutty story called “Inner Geographies” by Roxane Gay.  Incidentally, it is authored by the woman who rejected my 2nd person turned 3rd person narration piece, the one I told you about in class.  (“You feel trapped.”  No I don’t!)  If you choose to read it go ahead and leave a comment telling me what you thought.

Should I always expect you to be so peppy on Monday morning?  I should make energy drinks/coffee a mandatory component of the class.  There’s probably an ethical violation in that somewhere…

Hello class. A thousand apologies – I meant to get this up friday afternoon. I was working on a story all day yesterday and it’s making me a little funny in the head.  Anyway, on with the show!

For the weekend, please read the stories I gave you: they are Tattooizm, by Kevin Moffett, and Dogs, by Kevin Canty.  Once upon a time there were two Kevins… if you weren’t in class today, oh   no. I would recommend trying to find hard copies in the library. They are not available on the Internet.  Here’s a review I found on the Moffett story, completely optional.

I want you to give these close readings and come prepared to discuss them on Monday.  Please also consider this  question and leave a short response here with your thoughts by Monday before class.

Question: Think about the nature of the “Olive” tattoo in the story. How does it change throughout, and what is its function? This is literature, remember, so a cigar is never just a cigar, a tattoo is never just a tattoo.  There is no right or wrong answer here, just give me your general impressions.

And here is information on the reading on Sunday that I told you about, copied and pasted from an email.

Please join us this SUNDAY, January 30, for an evening of prose and poetry with Alice Bolin and Kevin Canty!

What: Second Wind is a reading series that pairs second-year students in the University of Montana’s Creative Writing MFA program with established community or faculty writers.
Who: Alice Bolin, poet, and Kevin Canty, fiction writer
When: Sunday, January 30, 6:30 PM
Where: The Top Hat, 134 W. Front Street, Missoula

Check out our BLOG for schedule and updates!

If you choose to go, just bring me a short little write up with your impressions of what you saw, or you can email me. You don’t need to type these.

I am very much looking forward to reading your first writing assignments.  I have an extremely busy weekend ahead of me so I might be able to get them back until Wednesday, but trust, they will be consumed.  Have a great weekend, everyone!



Writing Assignment #1:

Use these pictures to inspire your own flash fiction pieces.  Think about what you’ve learned about the genre from the few examples we read in class.  A flash fiction piece can be a complete, traditional story with a beginning, middle, and end, it can be more impressionistic or poem like, or it can be used to convey a philosophical idea, concept, etc.  The idea is that they are short.  With these pieces, you can let the pictures do some of the writing for you.  The picture is part of the composition so there’s no need to overly describe what we’re looking at.  Tell the story behind/around/under/next to/between the picture.

For Friday, please bring in 1-3 of your best flash fiction pieces.  Make sure you designate which photo you are talking about , either by the [numbers] I have helpfully provided, or just copy and paste the photo into your document.  Type these, please.  You are free to include and turn in the free write we did in class with the toe picture, or not.

Also due on Friday:

email me your people portfolio information and bring in your “what I like to read” submission for class.  See the first blog post for more info on this I’m not trying to explain it all day.

Get to writing, my cherubs.

Go here for more photos by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp.




© Nick Myers



© Nick Myers


© Molly Laich


© Lindsay Townes












© Vanessa Winship





I’ve heard rumor that my university email address isn’t working, which is just… shocking.  I am shocked.  Until I get it worked out you can contact me via gmail:

mollylaich (at) gmail (dot) com

Also this:

Creative Writing Teacher Announces Plan To Sit On Edge Of Desk

Welcome to fiction 210 with Molly!  I can’t tell you how excited I am to have you all here.  This class will function more like a club than anything else.  I’ll be using this blog to communicate with you throughout the semester, to connect you to various readings, and to discuss reading and writing via comments.

Today we’ll be going over the syllabus and course requirements.  If there’s time we’ll listen to this short story by James Salter called “Last Night” via the New Yorker Fiction Podcast. Otherwise we’ll listen to it first thing on Wednesday.

For Wednesday:

Read the following stories by Wednesday.  I want you to tell me which story you liked the best and a brief explanation of why (around 200 words, less if you prefer) and leave this as a comment on the blog.  Please get these up before you go to bed on Tuesday night. (I won’t always expect such a fast turn around for responding, but bear in mind: these stories are very short.) I will leave my own response this afternoon that you can use as a model.

Dracula, by Stanley Donwood

5 Stories, by Lydia Davis

Worst Times #6, #25, and #17, by Brandi Wells

Act Like You Mean It, by Jason DeYoung


Start thinking now about your assignment for Friday:

I’d like you to bring in a page-long excerpt from something you like to read.  Choose something that has inspired you to write in the past, is indicative of the writing you want to do, or just has always resonated with you for whatever reason.  In addition, please bring 250-500 words, typed, explaining why you’ve brought in the particular piece and what it means to you.  Be prepared to present your sample to the rest of the class.  Do not worry at all about whether or not the content is “academic” enough.  If it’s a graphic novel, fine.  Science fiction, fine. Smallville fan fiction?  Fine.  I just want to see what you’re interested in reading, and so does everyone else.

Also by Friday:

Please email me a picture of you with basic profile information for the “people” section of the blog.  You can attach a .jpg or give me a weblink to an existing photo.  Include the following:

Your preferred email address

Your home town.  A few likes.  A few dislikes.  Any other short biographical material you’d like to include.  See the “people” section linked here for my shining example.