Fiction Essentials With Rich Marcello
Wednesday Evenings, September 14 – November 16, 2016
6:00 – 9:00 PM
The Parlor, First Church
725 Main Street, Lancaster
Each three-hour class will be divided into two sections. In the first section, we’ll explore different aspects of the craft of fiction as detailed below. In the second section, we’ll focus on scenes written by the students, and provide positive, constructive feedback on how each author might further develop his or her work.
Week One: The Anatomy of a Scene
Week Two: The Fictive Dream
Week Three: Point of View, Voice, and Time
Week Four: Plot, Tension, and Raising the Stakes
Week Five: Characters
Week Six: The First and Last Chapter
Week Seven: Dialogue Versus Narrative Summary
Week Eight: How to Build a World
Week Nine: Common Issues
Week Ten: Putting It All Together
Prerequisites: Some level of previous experience writing fiction, either through class work or seminars or self-study. Each student must submit a sample of his or her writing, preferably a scene between six and ten double-spaced pages, as part of the application process for this class.
The Color of Home was published in 2013 by Langdon Street Press, and melds together honest generative dialogue, poetic sensory detail, and “unforgettable characters who seem to know the complete song catalog of Lennon or Cohen.” The Big Wide Calm was published in 2014, also by Langdon Street Press. The US Review of Books stated, “Marcello’s novel has a lot going for it. Well-written, thought-provoking, and filled with flawed characters, it meets all of the basic requirements of best-of-show in the literary fiction category.” The Beauty of the Fall will be published in 2016. Faulkner Award Winner Mark Spencer commented, “Few novels are as intelligent and relevant as The Beauty of the Fall. Almost none is as eloquent, compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately, uplifting.”
As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet.For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher.
Rich lives in Massachusetts on a lake with his family and two Newfoundlands, Ani and Shaman. He is currently working on his fourth novel, The Latecomers.
Preregistration Required. To Register, click here:
We Were All Beginners Once:
An Interview with Rich Marcello
SBWC: You are a full-time writer now, after working in the high tech field for years. What first motivated you to become a novelist and how did you go about pursuing your goal to become a writer?
RM: When I was in college, my humanities professor, who was a novelist, encouraged me to become a writer and even offered to mentor me. I was broke at the time, so I said no, but I always knew I would eventually return to writing. About five years ago, I came up with an idea to write three novels about different kinds of love, and so I left hi-tech and began to write the books. I’ve been writing every day since then, typically five or six hours a day, and I’ve come to believe the work I’m doing now was always meant to be my life’s work. With the publication of The Beauty of the Fall in the fall, I’ll fulfill my original goal. I’m now working on my fourth novel, The Latecomers, and I have many more ideas for future stories. If all goes well, when I’m done, I hope to publish ten or so novels.
SBWC: Francine Prose says writers learn to write “by writing, and by example, from reading books.” What do craft classes offer aspiring writers that they can’t get elsewhere?
RM: Writing is a craft, and, as Francine says, much of a writer’s growth comes from writing. With that said, there a number of technical concepts that can be taught – point of view, what it means to write a sense-based scene, what constitutes good dialogue, when to use narrative summary, how to develop a character through setting, the major components of a compelling story – to name a few.
I’ve come to believe it’s best to learn about these topics in a class that balances lectures with hands-on workshops. My experience is that aspiring writers tend to learn the most when they apply technical concepts to their own pieces in a safe, constructive environment. That’s what I offer students in my class.
SBWC: Your fiction-writing course runs for 10 weeks. Is there a natural progression to the craft of fiction writing? How to you balance the particulars of craft, such as writing dialogue or constructing scenes, with the big picture concerns of writing fiction, such plot and structure?
RM: I try to cover one of the major topic areas per week. I start with the definition of a scene and build from there. The scene truly is the most critical building block in moder fiction, so I’ve arranged all the tops to build off the scene.
SBWC: Do have suggested or required reading?
RM: There are many books out there on writing fiction. I will hand out a list of my favorite ten craft books during class. If I were to name one I’d recommend, it would be Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (9th Edition), by Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French.
SBWC: Who were your most effective teachers? And what were their most valuable lessons?
RM: I was lucky enough to be taught by Mark Spencer, who has published many novels, won the Faulkner Award, and is Dean of Humanities a the University of Arkansas. The most important thing he taught me was to work at my craft every day and to create characters, often deeply wounded, that I love.
SBWC: Could you talk little about the format of the class? What has worked best in your experience?
RM: The class combines lectures and workshops. Folks will have lots of opportunities to apply what they learn in class to their own work, and they’ll get on-the-spot feedback from me and their fellow students.
SBWC: A class like this is a commitment. Could you tell us a little about the workload and what you expect from students? How much time outside of class should students expect to spend writing/editing/critiquing?
RM: I encourage folks to write at least an hour a day each week. This isn’t a requirement, but it really does make a difference to the work. If a student wants to workshop a finished piece and doesn’t have time to write during the ten weeks, that’s okay. The important thing is that they have a piece of fiction, finished or unfinished, that we can work on in class.
SBWC: The course is open to “experienced” writers. What does this mean? Do you have to be published to apply?
RM: A student doesn’t need to be published. As long as students have some experience of writing fiction in the past, they’re welcome.
SBWC: For me, one of the most important aspects of fiction classes and workshops is encouragement from fellow students and teachers. What role does community play in learning to write? Are your students expected to share their work?
RM: Yes, a good portion of the class is workshop. Students are expected to read their own material to classmates and to provide feedback to their classmates. Sometimes students are concerned about reading their material out loud or giving verbal feedback on the spot, but once they see the power of the process I use, most end up finding this kind of sharing very valuable.
SBWC: Writing classes provide structure and discipline. What do your students take away with them in terms of developing and sustaining a successful writing process?
RM: I like to stress the importance of writing every day, the importance of working on a first draft all the way to the end before editing, and, finally, the importance of editing over and over unto a piece truly feels done.
SBWC: You require a 6 to 10, double-spaced page writing sample in your application. Does this have to be from finished work, or can it be a work-in-progress? Is this work that can be revisited in class?
RM: It can be from a work in progress, and a student can certainly choose to revisit a piece during the class.
SBWC: Clearly, you are not writing for yourself only, or simply for pleasure, but for publication. How do you approach the business end of being a writer? Do you address this side of things as part of the course?
RM: We won’t spend a lot of time on the business aspects of writing in this class. There isn’t enough time. With that said, if a writer is ready to submit work for potential publication, I’m happy to speak with them about the process outside of class.
SBWC: What do you say to newer students, who might be taking a class like this for the first time?
RM: All are welcome. Over the years, some of the best students I’ve had have turned out to writers taking a fiction class for the first time. Stated differently, if someone things the class might be helpful, they should sign up. The class is designed to serve all students, and, really, we were all beginners once…