Beginning August 26, the School of Writing launches its fall workshops and seminars for its Continuing Education and undergraduate programs. These classes, ranging from 5 to 15 weeks, include workshops in Fiction, Journalism, Nonfiction, Playwriting, Poetry, and Writing for Children, as well as grammar, punctuation, and composition seminars.

This week, we feature School of Writing faculty from three genres: Nonfiction, Fiction, and Poetry. Today: Fiction with Sharon Mesmer.

Sharon Mesmer, "There's a lot of 'play' involved"

Sharon Mesmer

What was the impetus for developing the course Accidental Realities?

I wanted to showcase some of the fascinating techniques of experimental fiction to (hopefully!) inspire students to think more broadly about what their own story-telling could encompass.  That term "experimental" shouldn't make people think we're going to be reading (and writing) opaque, unfathomable work.  Quite the contrary.  We concentrate on forms that are familiar, and that can—and have—been containers for both experimental and traditional stories: the vignette form, the second person ("you") address, and the dream story, to name just three.  The texts that go along with those three forms are Sandra Cisneros' The House On Mango Street, excerpts from Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci's memoir A Man, and some of Kafka's short works.  Nothing unfathomable there, but each has its challenges … and rewards!  We also work with cut-ups and appropriation, the aim being to get away from the things writers always write about and move toward really new, surprising characters, situations, and language.  There's a lot of "play" involved, always.  How else are you going to come up with something that will surprise and delight even you?

How does it compare to other fiction workshops?

Favorably!  There are a few things, though, that make this workshop stand out, I think: the blend of traditional and "experimental" texts, for one.  I think students won't encounter the kind of prompts we use in this workshop in their other classes.  I try to make time for in-class writing every session, since people who work full-time always say they wish they had more time for writing.  I also try to encourage the writers to form a community during the run of the class so that after the class is over people can continue showing work to each other if they choose. If they've formed a bond (and many times they do), why should the end of the class mean the end of that bond?

 

Register Now

Beginning Fiction
with Sharon Mesmer
Thursdays, 6-7:50 p.m.
15 weeks, beginning August 29
Express Reg: NWRW2305 Section A

Accidental Realities: Writing Experimental Fiction
with Sharon Mesmer
Thursdays, 8-9:50 p.m.
15 weeks, beginning August 29
Express Reg: NWRW3311 Section A

 

Sharon Mesmer, MFA, Brooklyn College, is a Fulbright Specialist. She is the recipient of two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships in poetry and a MacArthur Scholarship (through Brooklyn College); co-recipient, Jerome Foundation/SASE grant. Publications include Annoying Diabetic Bitch, The Virgin Formica, Ma Vie a Yonago, In Ordinary Time, and The Empty QuarterPoems in Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetryprose in I'll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women. Mesmer is a member of the flarf collective.

 

 

About The Author

Justin Sherwood's poems and essays have appeared in H_NGM_N, ILK Journal, The Poetry Project Newsletter, New Criticals, and elsewhere. He is a graduate of the MFA creative writing program at The New School, where he was selected for the 2012 Paul Violi Prize in Poetry. Find him on Twitter at @JustinSherwood