This week, we'll be introducing you to our outstanding guest instructors for the spring term (unless you're already familiar with their excellent writing). First up, we have Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, who will be teaching Poetry I, an eight-week workshop starting Tuesday, April 26 in Melrose Village.Read More
Congratulations to all! Please send us any news you'd like to share for this or future posts!
The Thorn Necklace: Healing Through Writing and the Creative Process, the new book from Francesca Lia Block (Novel III), will be released May 1 by Seal Press. Edan Lepucki writes in her blurb, “With The Thorn Necklace, Block explores her life as an artist and shows us—through encouragement, compassion, and useful exercises—how to find and nurture our own creative selves. An inspiring read.”
“Shadowland,” an exhibit featuring the art of Bernard Cooper and Lloyd Hamrol, opens March 22 at Thomas Paul Fine Art.
Chris Daley (Experimenting with Form in Fiction) was awarded the Yefe Nof California Writing Residency and she will spend two weeks in Lake Arrowhead working on her novel in progress later this spring. Chris will also be in conversation with Janet Fitch at LitFest Pasadena on May 19.
Christopher DeWan (Flash! Workshop) led a flash masterclass for the Arts Enterprise Laboratory, hosted at the Idyllwild Arts Academy.
DeLon Howell’s essay “For Quieter Plans” was published by Wanderlust Journal. He read his essay “Listening for the Boys” for the Tahoma Literary Review’s Soundcloud page. His essay “The One I Hold On To” is forthcoming from Hypertext Magazine.
"The Last Lunch," a story by Jon Krampner started in Neelanjana Banerjee's fiction workshop, was published by Singapore-based Eunoia Review.
Edan Lepucki's second novel Woman No. 17 was noted in the New York Times Book Review's Paperback Row column. On Sunday, March 18 at 4 pm, she will celebrate its paperback release at Book Soup in conversation with visual artist Christine Frerichs.
Brian Lin was accepted to the University of Southern California Ph.D. program in creative writing.
Elline Lipkin (Poetry Techniques) has three poems coming out in The Cost of Paper: Volume Five from the 1888 Center sometime this spring. She appeared this past weekend on the AWP panel: "Literary Public Citizen: The Laureate in the Community."
Mary Jane Myers’s new story collection Curious Affairs: Ordinary Women, Peculiar Tales is now available from Paul Dry Books.
The Expeditioner published Sarah Osman’s essay “Kentucky Fried Camel in Egypt: My Return to a Country I Never Left.”
Ivy Pochoda is a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Mystery/Thriller Book Prize for her novel Wonder Valley.
Lilliam Rivera (American Horror Story) received an honorable mention for the James Tiptree, Jr. award, recognizing exploration and expansion of gender in her novel The Education of Margot Sanchez. Her story “Crave” will be published by Nightmare Magazine on March 21.
Zan Romanoff (Young Adult Fiction) published the following essays since our last news post: “The Joy and Intimacy of the Personal Writing Outlet” for LitHub, “The Women Writers You've Been Overlooking” for The Paris Review, “Butcher Katie Flannery Carries On a Family Tradition,” which was also in print for the Los Angeles Times, “How Sanrio Turned Hello Kitty into a Food Superstar” for Eater, and “Boxing Gloves for Women Can’t Just Be Smaller (Or Pink)” for Racked. Zan also conducted an interview with Karla Welch for The Sunday Times.
Lisa Sanchez’s short story "Doubt" was published in Porter Gulch Review earlier in 2017. It was nominated in October by Pushcart editor Mark Wisniewski. Her essay “After Franken: Three Logical Fallacies that Triggered a Resignation” was published at Wrath-Bearing Tree. She was also a finalist for the 2017 Cutthroat Magazine Rick Demarinis Short Story Award for her short story "Nightingale's Lover."
“Trying to Get Pregnant Took Over My Life—Here's How I Got It Back,” an essay by Jessica Wright Weinstock started in Zan Romanoff’s nonfiction workshop, was published in Glamour.
Lauren Westerfield’s poems “As Killjoy” and “As Block Paragraph” appeared in Hobart, and her essay “The Need to Use Your Teeth” was published by The Baltimore Review. She is also nonfiction editor of Fugue Journal—its latest issue was released this month, in which Lauren interviews Mary-Kim Arnold. Fugue’s 2018 Prose Contest closes March 15.
1) You've written novels for adults and screenplays in addition to your young adult novel Extraordinary October. How do you approach YA differently than the other genres? What do you like about writing YA?
I have fewer expectations of the reader when I write YA. The story can be just as complicated, just as deep, just as scary or troubling or sad as an adult book, but I think of my readers as fresh and more open to where I might lead them.
2) What does a typical evening look like in the Young Adult Fiction workshop?
We share our week briefly, any writing problems or questions that have come up, either in their work or what they’re reading. Then we discuss the work for the evening—and I do my best to make the comments both an example for everyone and at the same time particular to the work we’re critiquing. I use a particular critique method where everyone speaks positively first—to set a positive tone for the workshop—and the writer has to come with specific questions he or she needs answered.
3) Who are some of your favorite YA authors? What makes a YA novel or short story stand out from the crowd?
I’m an old-fashioned reader—love E. Nesbitt, C.S. Lewis, Graham Wilson, and other old works of fantasy and adventure. On the other hand, The Spectacular Now, by Tim Tharp really stands out for me. A book about a teen alcoholic, but the narrator is charming and funny. Tharp shows both the ecstasy of drinking—politically incorrect as that seems—and then the despair. For me, it’s not the content as much as the character. Give me a character I want to follow anywhere.
We're pleased to have Ismail Muhammad coming down from the Bay Area this term to teach his seminar, Making the Political Personal. Ismail is a writer and critic living in Oakland, where he's a staff writer for The Millions and contributing editor at ZYZZYVA. His writing has appeared in Slate, the Los Angeles Review of Books, New Republic, and other publications. He's currently working on a novel about the Great Migration and queer archives of black history.
Making the Political Personal will take place in Glassell Park on March 4. Details below!
One-Day Seminar: Making the Political Personal
(taught by Ismail Muhammad in Glassell Park)
Sunday, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
March 4, 2018
As second wave feminists taught us, the personal is political—but how do we acknowledge that tension in nonfiction without sacrificing political urgency or personal perspective? During this seminar, we will practice techniques for incorporating political critique into personal narrative, such as writing effective scenes and developing momentum. We will examine contemporary examples of politically inflected narratives and engage in writing exercises that blend creative and civic purposes. The goal of this seminar is to explore how writers can best express their personal and political ideas and identities in narrative nonfiction and memoir.
This seminar is open to students of all levels. It will be held in Glassell Park where coffee, sparkling water, and light snacks will be served.
Enrollment limit: 8 students
$130 for new students; $120 for returning students
Congratulations to all our WWLA faculty and students who wrapped up 2017 in style!
"Taking Care With Broken Things: How I Came to Practice Ethical Taxidermy" by Summer Block (Essay Writing) was published by Catapult. Summer also wrote about the 25th Annual Sea Chantey Festival for The Awl. Look for her review in the anthology Critically Acclaimed: Fake Movies, Real Reviews, coming out January 9 and edited by former WWLA instructor Adam Cushman.
Sara Campbell wrote about one of her favorite records, R.E.M.'s Murmur, for The RS 500, an online outlet that's publishing stories and essays about Rolling Stone's top 500 albums of all time.
Melissa Chadburn (Nonfiction II) went undercover as a temp worker for her Longreads essay, “The Human Cost of the Ghost Economy,” which was among the 25 most popular Longreads exclusives of 2017 and the 10 best stunt journalism stories of 2017.
Andrea Ciannavei’s poem “Landowner” was published by Writers Resist.
“Unknocked,” a story by Chris Daley (Improve Your Submission Game), was published by Front Porch Journal.
Kristen Daniels will be a resident at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony in March 2017.
April Dávila’s story “Quitter” was published by F(r)iction Online.
Christopher DeWan (The Art of the Short Story) is one of six fellows invited to join the inaugural Script Lab at Middlebury College's historic Bread Loaf campus this January. He is a recipient of a 2018 grant from the Arts Enterprise Laboratory for flash fiction. Chris was also named one of Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch by the International Screenwriters’ Association. His collection Hoopty Time Machines was reviewed at Glassworks Magazine.
You can now read Jennifer Alise Drew’s essay “Personal Matters” in The Iowa Review.
Ruby Dutcher has an essay in the forthcoming book, Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome.
Jackie Elam’s flash nonfiction “Looking in the Mirror: The Ugly Truth of Search Engines” was published by HeadStuff.
Seth Fischer (Novel II) is the new nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. Lunch Ticket republished his story/adjusted excerpt "Coyote in the Blood" for their special celebrating 20 years of the Antioch MFA Program.
Terrance Flynn performed his story “Ambrosia” at The Moth Mainstage in Portland.
Melissa Haley wrote about women pilots in the 1930s for Acid Free, the publication of the Los Angeles Archivists Collective.
Tahoma Literary Review will publish DeLon Howell’s essay “Listening for the Boys.”
Edan Lepucki’s novel Woman No. 17 was a notable work of fiction by The Washington Post, a recommended book by the San Francisco Chronicle, and one of POPSUGAR's Best Books of 2017. Los Angeles Times critic-at-large Susan Straight highlighted the novel in her column about her favorite books of the year. Edan also interviewed Margaret Atwood for a PEN Center USA event.
"Villanelle: Warning," a poem by Elline Lipkin (Poetry II), was published in the fall issue of Moria. Her poems "Agape, Age Three" and "Yes, I Am" were published in the fall issue of Tinker Street.
Kate Maruyama (Novel I) will be part of the Shades & Shadows Reading at The Mystic Museum on January 20.
Only one month until A Perfect Universe, the new story collection from Scott O'Connor (Fiction I; Getting to the Heart of Your Characters), is available for purchase (but you can pre-order today!).
Sarah Osman's essay "A Teacher's Letter to Her Students About Charlottesville" was published by Hello Giggles.
Wonder Valley, the new novel from Ivy Pochoda (Plot & Pacing), was included in LitHub’s Best Crime Books of 2017, Entertainment Weekly’s 14 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in November, Village Voice's 2017's Best Crime Fiction, Los Angeles Times's Best Fiction of 2017, POPSUGAR's 12 Must-Read Books of November, and NPR’s Guide to 2017’s Great Reads, among others. It was also featured on Good Morning America as Michael Connelly’s favorite book of the year/the book he’s giving his friends this holiday season. Ivy also wrote about Wonder Valley and Twentynine Palms for The New York Times and snowboarder Chloe Kim for Vogue.
Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff (Nonfiction I) was included in NPR’s Guide to 2017’s Great Reads and Vulture's 10 Best YA Books. Her Personal Geography series at Medium concluded with her essay “The City Burning.” (See also “Where to Have a Near-Death Experience in Los Angeles.”) Zan also wrote about “The Peculiar Sadness of Animated Alcoholics” for The Awl, “The Consumerist Church of Fitness Classes” for The Atlantic, and "Why We Learned to Fight" for Bon Appétit.
Samantha Jean Sumampong's essay "I Was the Roommate from Hell" was published by Role Reboot.
Christina Simon has joined the editorial team at Angels Flight Literary West. Her essay “Tarnished Silver” was published in the summer 2017 “Death” issue of The Broken City.
Two fairy tales by Sally Stevens, “The Sad Queen, the Selfish King, and the Magical Flowers” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves—A Collective Overview,” will be included in a forthcoming anthology from Between the Lines Publishing.
Laura Warrell (Westside Fiction), along with guest instructor Natashia Deón and many other excellent writers, will be reading for Angels Flight • Literary West’s Year of the Woman: Writing for Change event on January 13.
Lauren Westerfeld’s poem “Hologram” appeared in the fall/winter 2017 issue of [PANK]. Noble/Gas Quarterly published her poems “As Saturnine in Spring” and “After Flash Rain in Summer” in their latest issue.
Writing Workshops Los Angeles will start offering online courses in February!
Two Cities Review published Elizabeth Youle’s story “The Caver.”
The editors of TriQuarterly nominated "Civilian," a poem by Kim Young (Poetry I), for a Pushcart Prize. Also, Kim’s poem "Tiger," originally published in The Cincinnati Review, was selected by the Academy of American Poets for inclusion on the site Poets.org.
The waitlist for Backstory—Moving Forward, Looking Back with Natashia Deón has grown to be quite lengthy, so we're pleased to offer a second section of the one-day seminar in Los Feliz on Saturday, December 2 from 10 am to 2 pm. Get your seat early before this section sells out, too!
Since novelist and nonfiction writer Zan Romanoff just joined our roster over the summer, we wanted to do a Q&A to help the WWLA community get acquainted with her. Once you read her answers below, feel free to snap up one of the few spots left in her Mixed Levels Nonfiction workshop starting October 17 in Hancock Park.
WWLA: While you've been writing nonfiction for some time, last term was your first time teaching for WWLA. What was your experience like? What did you find most surprising? What did you find most exciting?
ZR: It was so fun! This is actually my first year as a full-time freelance writer, so it's easy to start feeling a little burnout-y when all you do is write all day. I was anxious that teaching might contribute to that, but it was truly the opposite: gathering with people who were enthusiastic about writing once a week helped remind me of what's interesting and exciting about the practice—all the different places it can take you and the ways it can help you to think about and see the world.
WWLA: You've published nonfiction in a number of different venues from Bon Appetit to The New Republic. How did you get started writing for websites and magazines?
ZR: My mom is a writer, so I grew up scribbling—I've been writing journals and stories and blogs forever. For a long time, I looked at writing as a skill that I could use to help other people out: my best friend was an editor at a college newspaper, and when someone didn't turn in a column, I volunteered to write about an episode of Project Runway that had just aired. (What's up, 2006.) I did stuff like that—writing for various college publications, or unpaid websites, and my own Tumblr—for a long time before a piece I'd written for a zine ended up on The Paris Review Daily, and a couple of agents got in touch to ask if I had a book proposal. I could not have been more stunned. It took a lot of years to transition from working as an event planner to writing full-time, but that planted the seed that I was maybe good enough to think about writing professionally, on my own terms—not just when someone else gave me permission to do it.
WWLA: What are you looking forward to in this fall's Mixed Levels Nonfiction workshop? What will a typical workshop meeting look like?
ZR: I'm looking forward to reading students' work—I learned how to write by reading, and I still feel like reading and critiquing on a regular basis makes everyone's work much, much stronger. Because I'm so focused on reading as a necessary skill for writers, I usually start class with a quick check-in about how everyone's doing and what (if anything) they read that week. It helps us get to know one another, opens up all kinds of interesting discussion topics (from love of our pets to stories about viral tales of cheddar cheese and butternut squash to sighing over proper text etiquette), and helps remind students that stories are everywhere—the trick is to teach yourself to recognize them.
Congratulations, writers!Read More
Before we release our schedule on Wednesday, we'd like to announce that we have two new talented guest instructors for the fall! Melissa Chadburn will be teaching our Nonfiction I workshop in Atwater Village and Summer Block will be teaching Essay Writing in Burbank (both on Wednesday evenings starting the third week of October). Read below for more information on these fine writers and please welcome them to WWLA!
Summer Block has contributed essays, short fiction, and poetry to The Toast, The Awl, The Rumpus, Catapult, The Nervous Breakdown, McSweeney's, and PANK, and many other places. Her work has been featured in several anthologies, most recently California Prose Directory: New Writing from the Golden State. She is currently working on a book about occult communities in the San Fernando Valley.
Melissa Chadburn has written for The Atlantic's Citylab, Buzzfeed, Poets & Writers, Salon, American Public Media’s Marketplace, Al Jazeera America, and dozens of other places. She is a fellow for The Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Her essay, “The Throwaways,” received notable mention in Best American Essays and Best American Nonrequired Reading. Her debut novel, A Tiny Upward Shove, is forthcoming with Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
Lilliam Rivera's seminar Family Ties—Mining the Personal for Tension-Filled Fiction has been sold out for a while, but we've had a last minute drop. Here's your chance to join the seminar this Sunday in Los Feliz! Click here to enroll.
One-Day Seminar: Family Ties—Mining The Personal for Tension-Filled Fiction (taught by Lilliam Rivera in Los Feliz) – 1 spot left
10:00 am to 2:00 pm
August 6, 2017
As writers, we strive to capture the truth on the page. We conjure up painful and sometimes exhilarating moments from our own lives and translate them into the experiences of three-dimensional characters. This one-day seminar introduces ways writers can unearth the intimately personal and repurpose those moments into compelling fiction. Participants will explore their own histories with in-class exercises that urge them to write bravely. The most personal experiences make for the most powerful fiction. This seminar is an interior mixtape where fiction and authenticity will flow freely.
This seminar is open to students of all levels. It will be held in Los Feliz, where coffee, sparkling water, and light snacks will be served.
Enrollment limit: 8 students
$130 for new students; $120 for returning students
Most of our poetry workshops start this week, and there are a couple spots still available! You can join Elline Lipkin's Poetry II class on Tuesday in Eagle Rock or her Poetry I class on Thursday in Franklin Village/Hollywood. Poetry is on fire this year, so enroll soon to secure your seat!
Poetry I (taught by Elline Lipkin in Franklin Village) – 2 spots left!
7:30 to 9:30 pm
July 27, 2017 to September 21, 2017 (with no class on August 24)
Through original creative work, revision, reading, and discussion, this eight-week workshop will focus on making poems that are driven by a keen attention to language, image, and sound. Our task will be engaging with each other’s work and the weekly readings in order to explore the ways poetry can recover more complex imaginative and perceptive possibilities. As poet Mark Doty wisely asserts: “Our metaphors go on ahead of us; they know before we do.” We will be putting Doty’s assertion to the test with an emphasis on generative writing exercises that lead us into surprising and unexpected creative spaces.
This class is open to students at all levels and will take place in Glassell Park, where wine, sparkling water, small snacks will be served.
Enrollment limit: 8 students
$390 for new students; $350 for returning students. (Payment plans available to returning students.)
Poetry II (taught by Elline Lipkin in Eagle Rock) – 1 spot left!
7:30 to 9:30 pm
July 25, 2017 to September 12, 2017
In this eight-week intermediate workshop, students will continue to study a variety of classic and newer poetic forms to figure out how they do what they do so well. Students will have assignments that offer the chance to learn through imitation and example, and they will be encouraged to apply the craft techniques studied to their own ongoing writing projects. Students will use the table of contents from different models to discuss how to structure a poetry project and how sections, themes, and images speak to one another. Consideration will be given to ordering each student's own manuscript in development and students will have the opportunity to workshop up to 20 pages of poetry. We will develop a sense of community as we share our discoveries and deepen our practice of this craft. Previous experience studying poetry and/or enrollment in Mixed Levels Poetry is recommended.
This class is open to students at all levels and will take place in Eagle Rock, where wine, sparkling water, small snacks will be served.
Enrollment limit: 8 students
$390 for new students; $350 for returning students. (Payment plans available to returning students.)
Elline Lipkin is a scholar and poet who has edited for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and journals. Her collection of poetry The Errant Thread was chosen by Eavan Boland for the Kore Press First Book Award. Her second book, Girls’ Studies, explores contemporary girlhood in America and was published by Seal Press. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature. She is widely published as a poet and her nonfiction writing has appeared in Salon.com, Ms., and other contemporary sources. A former resident at Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Contemporary Arts, and Dorland, Elline has been a speaker at the Napa Valley Writers Conference and the Writer-in-Residence at the Paper & Book Intensive. Elline has taught creative writing to students of all ages and is the current Poet Laureate of Altadena.
Neelanjana Banerjee (Organizing Your Writing with Scrivener) spoke with Mira Nair about turning Monsoon Wedding into a theatrical musical, first stop Berkeley Rep, for the Center for Asian American Media.
Katie Barnes was accepted to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in August to participate in the nonfiction workshop.
The Thorn Necklace (Seal Press), a writing guide/memoir by Francesca Lia Block (Memoir 101: From Purge to Pitch), will be available in spring 2018. Francesca is currently at work on a novel.
“The Tunnel of Love,” a story by Chris Daley (The Art of the Short Story; Nonfiction III), was published by Cease, Cows.
Pithead Chapel published “Canopy,” a new story by Christopher DeWan (Fiction I). His story “The Atheist of Dekalb Street” was also included in Best Small Fictions 2017, edited by Amy Hempel and published by Braddock Avenue Books.
Dawn Dorland appeared at BinderCon (April 1-2, UCLA) on a panel about writing and class called "On Payment" and taught two nonfiction seminars at the Muse & the Marketplace conference (May 5-7, Boston). On the merit of her novel-in-progress Econoline, Dawn will attend the 2017 Tin House Summer Workshops (July 9-16, Portland).
Wendy Fontaine’s essay “Angie & Betty & Me” appeared in Compose: A Journal of Simply Good Writing.
Cease, Cows also published “Living Rooms,” a story by Laroo Jack.
Edan Lepucki's new novel, Woman No. 17, came out on May 9th. Her essay "Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them" was published on The New York Times Opinion page, and her profile of Kevin Bacon can be found in the most recent issue of Esquire Magazine.
Elline Lipkin (Poetry II) served as co-editor of the Altadena Poetry Review, which launched in late April and included poems by Robin Ford and Annette Wong. Elline has recently been awarded a California Writing Residency through 1888 + Yefe Nof in San Bernardino, CA. She also blogged for Poets & Writers about the wonderful poetry workshop that Suzanne Lummis led back in February of this year.
Kate Maruyama’s short story, "La Calavera," about cultural appropriation gone sideways, will be appearing in Cemetery Dance's anthology, Halloween Carnival, coming out from Random House this fall. She also reflected on 2014’s 90x90 events in anticipation of their return this summer.
“Golden State," a story by Scott O’Connor (Novel I) is now part of Amazon's new Prime Reading service, so Prime members can read it for free.
Brevity published Kate Martin Rowe’s essay “Summer Missionary.”
Joyce Salter will attend “Dreaming Awake: A Generative Fiction Writing Workshop” with Dan Chaon at The Port Townsend Writing Conference in July.
Margaret Wappler wrote the cover story on Kerry Washington for Net-A-Porter.
Lydia Whitlock’s essay “I thought I was over my relationship—but then I did my taxes” was published by The Washington Post.
Annette Wong read at LitFest Pasadena on the panel "10 Distinguished Local Poets" and was accepted to the Squaw Valley Writers' Conference.
Jules Wood will be joining the University of Iowa MFA program for poetry this fall.
We're really excited to have three talented writers joining us as guest instructors on our summer roster (which will go live on Wednesday!). Whether you write fiction, memoir, or nonfiction, these authors will inspire new writing and help develop your works in progress.
Welcome Lilliam Rivera, Zan Romanoff, and Elizabeth L. Silver!
Lilliam Rivera is an award-winning writer and author of The Education of Margot Sanchez, a contemporary young adult novel available now from Simon & Schuster. Recently named a "2017 Face to Watch" by the Los Angeles Times, Lilliam's work has appeared in Tin House, Los Angeles Times, and Latina, to name a few. She lives in Los Angeles where she’s completing her second novel.
Zan Romanoff is the author of two young adult novels, A Song to Take the World Apart and Grace and the Fever, both with Knopf Books for Young Readers. Her nonfiction has appeared online and in print in Allure, Buzzfeed, Elle, GQ, Lucky Peach, The New Republic, and The Paris Review Daily. She was born and raised in Los Angeles.
Elizabeth L Silver is the author of the memoir, The Tincture of Time: A Memoir of (Medical) Uncertainty (Penguin Press, 2017) and the critically acclaimed novel, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton (Crown, 2013), which was the Amazon Best Debut of the Month, an Amazon Best Book of the Year, Kirkus Best Book of the Summer, and published in seven languages. Elizabeth’s writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from McSweeney’s, Lenny Letter, New York Magazine, Literary Hub, The Rumpus, The Los Angeles Review, The Millions, and The Dallas Morning News, among others. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the MA program in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in England, and Temple University Beasley School of Law, Elizabeth lives with her family in Los Angeles.
Stay tuned for more details!
This term, guest instructor Scott O'Connor is offering a seminar on characterization for WWLA, which will be held in Los Feliz on April 30 and May 7. (You can sign up here!) We asked Scott some questions about his seminar and what he thinks about getting to the heart of your characters.
WWLA: In your course description, you wrote that the seminar "will help new characters come alive on the page and turn existing (and potentially difficult) characters into compelling players." What makes a character compelling and what makes a character difficult?
SO: I think the most compelling characters are often the most difficult to bring to life. They can seem complicated, uncooperative, secretive (which are also the qualities that make real people so compelling). But there are ways to approach these difficult characters, to help them open on the page in all of their unique complexity. I’ve learned that when I have a difficult character who—despite my frustration—I just can’t stop thinking about, then I might be onto something. They just require a different approach.
WWLA: Your novels Untouchable and Half World both have memorable and well developed characters, and there are quite a few players in Half World. What was a challenging character issue you've encountered and how did you solve it?
SO: Many of the characters in Half World do pretty terrible things. But I wanted to understand why they made these choices—I wanted them to be as human and relatable as characters we might think of as heroic. “Evil” characters leave me flat. There’s no humanity there.
WWLA: People often think of characterization as an element of fiction, but characters are clearly important in nonfiction as well, from journalism to memoir. What might nonfiction writers learn from your seminar?
SO: No matter what field we’re working in—fiction, nonfiction, memoir, screenplays—writers try to bring people to life on the page. The techniques for getting there—for revealing vibrant, complex characters—are the same regardless of whether those people are from our imagination, or history, or the world outside. Even if those characters are ourselves—who would argue that Joan Didion isn’t one of the most compelling literary figures we have—both on and off the page.
WWLA: Who are some of the characters that have stayed with you long after you finished reading about them?
SO: I’m always fascinated by characters who—no matter how fully drawn—retain some mystery I’ll never unlock, some secrets I’ll never discover. Don Delillo’s version of Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra, Almásy in The English Patient, Mrs. Ramsay in To the Lighthouse, Elizabeth Jennings in The Americans…no matter how many times I encounter these characters, I always want to know more.
WWLA: In addition to developing their own characters, students in the seminar will also read some examples of effective character portraits. Which writers will you be using for models?
SO: Zadie Smith, Charles Portis, Rachel Harper, August Wilson, Joan Didion, Mary Ruefle . . . we’ll be in good company.
Scott O’Connor is the author of the forthcoming book of stories Thalassa, the novels Untouchable and Half World, and the novella Among Wolves. He has been awarded the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, and his stories have been shortlisted for the Sunday Times/EFG Story Prize and cited as Distinguished in Best American Short Stories. He has written for FOX, Universal Television, The New York Times Magazine, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.
There are only a few spots left in Scott's seminar. Don't miss out!
Several of our instructors will take part in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this upcoming weekend, April 22 and 23, at USC. We'd love to see you there!
3:00 PM — Margaret Wappler will appear on the panel Fiction: On the Edge in Salvatori Computer Science Center 101.
4:30 PM — Diana Wagman will appear on the panel Young Adult Fiction: With Great Power... on the YA Stage.
11:00 AM — Edan Lepucki will appear on the panel Fiction: Disappearing Acts in the Andrus Gerontology Center.
12:00 PM — Kate Maruyama will moderate the panel Fiction: Slightly Surreal in Seeley G. Mudd 123.
1:30 PM — Chris Daley will moderate the panel Memoir: Exploring the World in Seeley G. Mudd 123.
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.
Writing Workshops Los Angeles is proud to be a community partner with Lambda LitFest, a free, weeklong literary festival that celebrates and honors and expands on the rich, diverse tradition of LGBTQ writers and readers in the Southland. Starting March 6!
“How to Love Los Angeles,” an essay by Chris Daley (Essay Writing; Fiction I), was published in the “Time, time, time...” issue of Angels Flight • literary west. She will be reading the essay at the AFLW Salon at Clifton’s Republic on March 26. Three photos from her “Hanging Bear” series will be featured in the next issue of Print Oriented Bastards. She is also now designing author websites through Chris Daley Writing & Design.
Christopher DeWan had a short story called "Visitation" published in Gravel in February, and "The Signal" will appear in Bodega later this spring.
The Iowa Review will soon publish Jennifer Alise Drew’s essay “Personal Matters.”
“Coyote in the Blood,” a chapter from the novel in progress by Seth Fischer (Make America Write Again; Memoir I), will be published by Joyland in May.
Amy Forstadt’s poem “After the Election” appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, and her poem “What My Son Learns” was published by Heavy Feather Review.
Ella Martinsen Gorham read at Diesel: A Bookstore in Oakland, CA as part of Zyzzyva Magazine's celebration of their winter issue. Her story is published in the magazine. Guest instructor Scott O'Connor (Getting to the Heart of Your Characters), whose short story also appears in the issue, read as well.
“The Erotic Zookeeper,” a story by Laroo Jack, was published in the fall 2016 issue of Ghostlight: The Magazine of Terror.
Ruth LeFaive’s story “You Got This,” first drafted in Chris DeWan’s mixed levels fiction class, was published in Atticus Review.
Edan Lepucki co-wrote, with poet Tess Taylor, an op-ed in the LA Times about the book club they formed with their 5-year-old sons. She also published the short story "Chorus" in Slate Magazine as part of their series of short stories about life under a Trump regime.
Kate Maruyama (Novel I) is on a short story streak! Her story "The Sound" appeared in Whistling Shade in November, "Fries and Coffee" is in the spring version of The Corvus Review, and her short story "False Spring" will be up on Entropymag.org on March 16th as part of their "On Weather" series.
Compose Journal nominated Anthony Mohr’s essay “Super Summer Spectacular” for a Pushcart Prize. He also has an essay titled "Risk," which he worked on in Bernard Cooper's workshop, coming out in Superstition Review.
Margaret Wappler (Nonfiction I) interviewed Margaret Atwood, one of her heroes, for the Los Angeles Times. The interview will be in next Sunday's paper.
Kim Young’s manuscript, Tigers, was chosen by Ross Gay as a finalist for the Jake Adam York Poetry Prize hosted by Copper Nickel. She also has a new poem forthcoming in TriQuarterly.
Congratulations, WWLA writers!
We're proud of our WWLA writers!
Marie Condron wrote a profile of Hartley Burr Alexander Chair of Humanities Myriam J. A. Chancy for Scripps Magazine.
Forth Magazine will publish “Most Bones Get Buried,” an essay by Chris Daley (Nonfiction II), alongside her photograph “Ballin Ceiling Mural.”
Christopher DeWan (Experimental Fiction) will be a featured author at Stories on Stage Davis this December, alongside Ramona Ausubel. Also in December, his short story "The Signal" will appear in Sick Lit Magazine.
In addition to being nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Kirkus Reviews named Grace, the debut novel from Natashia Deón (Navigating Personal Faith in Your Writing), one of the year’s best books, and The New York Times included it in their 2016 Holiday Gift Guide. Natashia, “the hardest-working debut novelist in Los Angles,” was also profiled in the Los Angeles Times.
Natashia Deón (Grace) and Margaret Wappler (Neon Green) were both listed on Entropy’s Best Fiction Books of 2016.
Dawn Dorland was a finalist for the 2017 Annenberg Community Beach House Writing Residency in Santa Monica and has been waitlisted for a 2017 Djerassi Artist's Residency. She was recently named a Teaching Scholar for the 2017 Muse & the Marketplace conference, held annually by GrubStreet in Boston, where she will teach nonfiction.
“Emergence,” an essay by Jennifer Alise Drew, will appear in the Corporeal issue (#20) of Slice Magazine, which comes out in March.
Seth Fischer (Essay Writing; Fiction I) is joining Angels Flight • literary west as their new nonfiction editor. They are currently accepting submissions for the upcoming Resistance issue. Seth also attended the Bisexual Community Briefing at The White House in September. He wrote about the experience at the Antioch University website.
Terrance Flynn was a chief contributor to The Wall Street Journal’s feature “101 Rut-Busting Things to Do This Weekend” published on October 27.
Anita Gill’s “An Open Letter to My College Student Frantically Trying to Complete Last Week’s Homework During Class” appeared in Defenestration Magazine in September. In October, McSweeney’s posted her piece “Full Disclosure Form for Fiction Writing Workshop Submission.”
Marnie Goodfriend signed with Ryan D. Harbage at The Fischer-Harbage Agency.
Zyzzyva’s Winter 2016 issue will include Ella Martinsen Gorham’s story "The Urban Forest."
DeLon Howell’s essay “Woke” will be published in the Winter 2016 issue of The Stonecoast Review.
Kate Maruyama (Fiction II; Re-Vision: An Inside Out Novel Revision Seminar) had a story in the fall issue of Whistling Shade and her story "Supercuts" appeared in Duende.
Anthony Mohr’s essay "Rainy Day Schedule," which originally ran in DIAGRAM, will be reprinted in the 2017 edition of the California Prose Directory.
Sirens, a memoir by Joshua Mohr (The Dueling 'I's in Memoir), will be published by Two Dollar Radio on January 10, 2017. Jerry Stahl described the memoir as “astonishing, heart-in-the-mouth, darkly funny, and wildly inspiring.”
Wonder Valley, the third novel by Ivy Pochoda (Essay Writing), will be published by Ecco / HarperCollins in Fall 2017.
A radio story written and produced by Jessica Ripka, "Now There's Only Time To Live Forever," was picked up by the Remix podcast.
Stephanie Ross’s essay “Consciousness Raising” will appear in the forthcoming anthology My Body/My Words.
Matthew Sosnow was accepted to a number of MFA programs for fiction writing, and he will attend Bennington's low-residency program.
Diana Wagman (Novel II) and her daughter are traveling to England to visit Jane Austen's birthplace, her home in Bath, her publisher's office, her plaque in Westminster Abbey, and other Austen-centric locations.
Margaret Wappler (Memoir I; Novel I) wrote an essay on silence for California Sunday Magazine's special Sound issue in September. She was also a conference panelist at “Science Fiction L.A.: Words and World Building in the City of Angels” at the University of Southern California in October.
Kim Young (Putting Together a Poetry Chapbook) has been recognized with an award from California State University, Northridge for her excellence in teaching. Kim’s poem “The Felons” was published by [PANK] in October. She also has new poems in the latest issues of Strutco and Hotel Amerika. The Cincinnati Review awarded her poem “Tiger” an honorable mention for the Robert and Adele Schiff Poetry Award.
Congratulations to all the WWLA writers with good news this term!
Leslie Cook’s poetry was published in the “Love and Ensuing Madness” section of Rat's Ass Review.
Warner Brothers has bought the rights to Bernard Cooper’s memoir The Bill from My Father for the second time since the book was published in 2006.
Chris Daley’s submission “Heavenly” received an honorable mention in the Literary Death Match 250-Word Bookmark Contest judged by Daniel Handler. She also recently completed the redesign of this website.
Christopher DeWan’s story collection Hoopty Time Machines (Atticus Books) will be published on September 22! You can attend launch events at Skylight Books on September 21 and The Last Bookstore on September 27. Chris’s stories also recently appeared in Cease Cows, the Electronic Encyclopedia of Experimental Literature, Hobart, and Passages North.
An excerpt of Dawn Dorland's novel-in-progress Econoline won third place in the Writers at Work 2016 Emerging Writer Contest, judged by Peter Ho Davies. Dawn was also in residence for one month this summer at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Members of Chris Daley’s Memoir Manuscript Intensive Workshop—Jennifer Alise Drew, Christy Ellis, Terrance Flynn, Karen Lentz, Stephanie Ross, Joyce Salter, and Megan Stephan—read from their work at the Bar Covell Sidebar on July 15.
Seth Fischer’s short story “Our Most Frequent Requests” will appear in a forthcoming issue of Gargoyle Magazine, and his The Rumpus essay "Bow and Arrow" was chosen for the 2017 California Prose Directory, edited by Lisa Locascio. Seth will be reading as part of the Roar Shack reading series (with our fall guest instructor Natashia Deón) on September 11, and he’ll read from Rich Ferguson's book New Jersey Me (which Seth edited) at Chevalier’s Books on September 15.
Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts published Nicole Hoelle’s essay “Rick Has Died.”
Edan Lepucki reviewed Losing It by Emma Rathbone for The San Francisco Chronicle. Her essay "My California" was published in Zócalo Public Square. The cover of Edan's second novel, Woman No. 17, was revealed on The Millions.
Elline Lipkin was a writer in residence at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony in July. Her poem “Catholic Boarding School, Six Years Old, 1943“ will appear in a future issue of Calyx. In June, she participated on a panel about poet laureates at LitFest Pasadena. Elline was also a featured reader in the Village Poets of Sunland–Tujunga series this past Sunday, August 28, and she has been invited to participate in the Tabula Poetica Reading Series at Chapman University in December.
Wendy Moss was invited to participate in the Southampton Writers' Conference this July based on the strength of an essay that she wrote and workshopped in Dawn Dorland's Mixed Levels Nonfiction class.
This fall, Jessica Ripka will be training as a radio producer at the Transom Story Workshop on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
Sally Stevens had two more stories appear in the No Extra Words podcast: “Wrong Number” in June and “Jasper” in July.
Laura Warrell attended the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop in July.
This fall, Lauren Westerfield is kicking off her tenure as the nonfiction editor of FUGUE, the literary journal at the University of Idaho. She also was the recipient of a Centrum Fellowship this summer, which sent her to the Port Townsend Writing Conference for a week of workshops and readings in Washington.
Tim Youd typed two John Rechy novels—City of Night at LACE and Numbers at Griffith Park—as part of his 100 Novels Project.