Graduate Fiction Writers To Share Work At Wynne Home
The stories are not yet published, the excerpts come from novels that are not yet finished, but the Sam Houston State University graduate students in Scott Kaukonen’s fiction writing workshop will offer up advance previews in a pair of public readings next week.
The writers will share their works-in-progress over the course of two nights, Monday (May 5) and Thursday (May 8) at the Wynne Home Arts Center. Both events will begin at 6 p.m., with six writers filling the docket on each night and each writer reading for 10-12 minutes. The readings are free and open to the public.
“We spend the vast majority of the semester in critique mode. The students read each others’ in-progress work, and our responsibility is to read that work generously and wisely, but also to help the writer to recognize the story’s problems and shortfalls,” said Kaukonen, director of the SHSU Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, editing and publishing. “It can be a very challenging atmosphere, both professionally and personally, and it can become easy to overlook the strengths of the work—if only because good writers who want to produce great work must become their own toughest critics.
“But this is an opportunity to put the work that’s been done—that’s being done—in a different context. It’s a chance to celebrate the work, and not merely to critique it.”
This is the fifth year, and third consecutive spring, that Kaukonen has held his graduate fiction workshop in the Wynne Home. The class has been meeting each Monday evening around the long table in the formal dining room, pouring over the stories, discussing characterization and plot structure, imagery and metaphor, genre and language.
“We’re so fortunate to have this opportunity to use this space as we do,” Kaukonen said. “I try to remind my students every chance we get that we would not have this atmosphere without the generosity of Linda Pease and the Wynne Home and the City of Huntsville.
“It creates an atmosphere that’s different than your standard classroom,” Kaukonen added. “It’s warm and inviting and perfect really for what we do.”
Students in the class include Matthew Bennett, Alec Brewster, Reina Shay Broussard, Kari Bush, Kim Davis, Cody Harrison, Gary Horton, Brian McWilliams, Christopher Mitchell, Kim Rayl, Nathan Ridings, and Olivia Strand.
Though the majority of the students enrolled in the class are students in the MFA program, several are literature students enrolled in the MA program.
“For some of these students, this is old hat,” Kaukonen said. “They’ve been in a number of workshops now, and have even participated in this event in the past. For some, it’s their first real go-round with a serious workshop, and that experience can be a real eye-opener.
“But part of the pleasure, as the teacher, is to see the talent these students bring to the classroom and to get to see that talent emerge on the page,” he said. “There are moments when you just want to put down your pen and enjoy the work for what it is—funny, insightful, whip-smart, true.”
The MFA program is wrapping up its second year, and the readings at the Wynne Home cap a reading series that has included the poets Lauren Shapiro, Kevin Prufer and Nick Lantz; graphic novelist Michael Demson; fiction writers Kyle Minor and Michael Sheehan; and translators Helena Halmari and Kaukonen, as well as the National Book Awards at Sam Houston, an event that brought to Huntsville National Book Award Finalists Téa Obreht, Lucie Brock-Broido, and Gene Luen Yang.
“It’s been an ambitious year for the reading series,” Kaukonen said, “and we’ve been assembling next year’s program with even greater ambitions. For our final event this year, it seems appropriate to turn the attention to our students—to our future novelists and poets, so to speak.”
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