One of the many things I love about my job is that I get to teach a “Special Topics in Creative Writing” class that could easily be renamed “Things I’m Obsessed with that You Should be Obsessed with, Too.” I fell in love with Joan Silber’s The Art of Time in Fiction book and designed a class around that. I fell in love with Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose and so we spent a semester on that.
One idea I’ve been kicking around lately is centering a fiction-writing class around a single author, looking closely at the body (or at least a portion) of that author’s work to see what he or she has to teach us. The author that most readily comes to mind is Elizabeth Strout who has published novels, stories, and a book of interrelated stories. Plus, brilliant. There would be so much to talk about here as far as character development, structure, and so on. As a starting point, I’ve written here and here about exercises I’ve done around Olive Kitteridge.
One possible problem might be if you don’t like regional writing and cranky women, you might not like the class, but if you don’t like those things, you might not like any of my classes (ba dum bum!). I thought about pairing her with another writer, maybe someone super different like Junot Díaz, whom I also adore, and who would give us the same opportunities to delve into another body of work and talk about the same issues (structure, character development, etc) but see them handled very differently.
Would you like to take or teach a class like this? And if so, what authors come to mind that you’d like to cover for an entire semester?