Summer Fiction Workshop Update!

I just have to thank West Chester University once again for letting me teach another summer Short Story Workshop! I have had such a blast this summer, for the second summer in a row, teaching the short story and short story writing to these amazing students!  And I also want to thank the five authors who agreed to work with us by email, Skype, and hangout: […]

Nathan Oates, Peter Grandbois, Nina McConigley, Sara Veglahn, and Jensen Beach.

We read these author’s incredible books, and the students collaborated in pairs with the authors. We didn’t have much time–just about four weeks–but my students coordinated quickly and cultivated exceptionally lean and quick relationships with their writer, and, and then each group (two students and writer) spearheaded a class discussion of writing, writing the short story, the specific stories we were engaging, biographies of the authors, and a range of topics that had nothing to do with writing whatsoever.

At the end of our semester, I asked the students to provide micro-reviews of the author’s books, and here are some of the gems:

On Nathan OatesThe Empty House:


“themes of travel and the unknown”

“Characters whose inner monologues are familiarly banal are thrust into situations that bring the true vastness and tragedy of humanity into focus.”

“Unique settings and intense plots are matched with deteriorating relationships to create extreme disorder.”

“Sometimes I re-read these to try to guess the end of the story.”

“These stories exhibit the author’s multi-dimensional grasp of human experience.”

“Emptiness and a constant need to be searching for something plagues the characters in these stories and allows the reader to question where exactly home is and what it means.”


On Peter GrandboisDomestic Disturbances:

“Magic and mythos are at play in all of these stories about what would haveotherwise seemed like normal.”

“Grandbois creates a sense of chaos with surreal and descriptive words.”

“The book’s chaos inspires the reader to think deeply about the stories and then read them again for understanding.”

“When one opens [this book] tentacles stretch out from the pages to pull your forehead closer to the action with their suction cups.”

“Pure fiction”

“The elegant beauty of the prose lends itself to a thoughtful construction of a world we all know but never acknowledge.”


On Nina McConigley’s Cowboys and East Indians:

“McConigley explores the ‘other,’ or ‘outside experiences’ and the beauty of the unusual.”

“The prose is traditional, but the characters are anything but; most of them are just struggling to find the place where they fit.”

“McConigley is a master of the first-person perspective, wrapping the reader in a variety of saris, making her characters feel out of place and awkward at times…and the elements at the core of each story allow us to question which parts of ourselves we share with the world and which we suppress.”

“The stories, written with humor and sarcasm, made me aware of how people perceive individuals they see as different.”

“The reader of these stories will find themselves a bit more sensitive to those they may not understand.”


On Sara Veglahn’s Mayflies:

“This book will swallow the reader and envelop them within the thoughts and feelings of a woman only known to them as a troubled soul.”

“It creates a concerning look at what it means to be alone, followed by the consequences it can bring.”

“The prose is highly poetic, which gives it a dreamy, otherworldly feel and the author takes an untraditional approach to the importance of the characters within a story and, really, to the nature of “story” overall.”

“Haunting snapshots that explore the power with which death controls us.”

“Each page I read relaxed me a bit and evoked profound emotions.”

“Veglahn seems to tangle with the concept of vignette by taking the form of surreal snapshots that imitate the nature of dreams and reality, exploring the sometimes salient overlap between the two.”


And Jensen Beach was out of the country and was our very last class discussion, so I am still collecting responses about his stories right now — More soon!