After the first westside mixed levels fiction workshop sold out, our guest instructor Francesca Lia Block stepped up to help us offer a second section that starts on April 17. We thought we'd ask Francesca a few questions so potential students can get a sense of her style and the substance of the workshop.
WWLA: Welcome! We're happy to have you with us this term! Many people obviously know you as a writer of over thirty books (!), but you are also an active and engaged teacher of fiction and memoir. What do you enjoy about being in the classroom?
FLB: Teaching is as important to me as writing. It’s deeply satisfying and inspiring to help people find their story and develop it into something that others will want to read. I spent many years of my life alone at a desk, writing. Now, through teaching, I have a wonderful community of writers to nurture, challenge, teach, and learn from every day. Writers are some of my favorite people because you can have conversations about the things in life that really matter!
WWLA: The students in the class will have the opportunity to read and discuss a number of stories as models. Could you tell us about a couple stories that you assign and why you enjoy them?
FLB: I chose stories that were either much anthologized classics and/or stories that I found riveting or haunting in some way. For example, I love the stories of Joy Williams for their devastating stylistic power, so we’ll be reading “The Girls” for our “style” class. We will also look at “For Esme with Love and Squalor” by J.D. Salinger as a way to study character. Other authors include Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Flannery O’Connor, and Zora Neale Hurston.
WWLA: What will a typical evening in the mixed levels fiction workshop look like?
FLB: We’ll meet in what my students call “The Fairy Cottage,” a little yellow house with a white picket fence in Culver City. There will be candles, a circle of chairs, and paintings on the walls. I always strive to create a supportive and stimulating atmosphere. For the first four weeks, we will discuss our writing and reading assignments and I will lecture on various elements of writing (plot, character, style, etc.). (I’ll be using my “12 Questions to Help Structure Your Story” that are featured in my upcoming memoir/writing guide The Thorn Necklace. I’ve seen them help thousands of writers over the years.) Then we’ll discuss and do in-class assignments. For the next four weeks, we will follow the same structure but we’ll also be workshopping a ten-page story by each student (two per night). We will revise the stories and share them aloud at the last class. Then we’ll celebrate with a potluck party!
Francesca Lia Block is the Lifetime Achievement Award winning author of over thirty acclaimed and widely translated books of fiction, nonfiction, short stories, and poetry. She has also written a screenplay for Fox Searchlight and contributed essays, interviews, and reviews to many publications including The Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Nylon and Spin. Francesca teaches at Antioch University, Los Angeles and UCLA Extension and is currently finishing her memoir/writing guide The Thorn Necklace: Turning Pain into Art coming in 2018 from Seal Press. www.francescaliablock.com.