Mary LaChapelle

BA, University of Minnesota. MFA, Vermont College. Author of House of Heroes and Other Stories; stories, essays and anthologies published by New Rivers Press, Atlantic Monthly Press, Columbia Journal, Global City Review, Hungry Mind Review, North American Review, Newsday, The New York Times; recipient of the PEN/Nelson Algren, National Library Association, Loft Mcknight and The Whiting Foundation awards; fellowships from the Hedgebrook, Katherine Anne Porter, Edward Albee, and Bush foundations. SLC, 1992–   

Undergraduate Courses 2020-2021

Writing

Fiction Workshop: From the Basics to the Sublime

Open , Seminar—Year

Nabokov stated that there are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. In this yearlong workshop, we will consider all three; but it is with the art of enchantment that this workshop is most dedicated. We will walk through the process of writing a story. Where does the story come from? How do we know when we are ready to begin? How do we avoid succumbing to safe and unoriginal decisions and learn to recognize and trust our more mysterious and promising impulses? How do our characters guide the work? How do we come to know an ending, and how do we earn that ending? And, finally, how do we create the enchantment necessary to involve, persuade, and move the reader in the ways that fiction is most capable. Our course will investigate the craft of fiction through readings, discussion, and numerous exercises. In the second semester, we move on to explore dream narratives, the sublime, the absurd, and the fantastic. We study a democratically chosen novel and, possibly, graphic fiction and a film. Our objective is for you to write, revise, and workshop at least one fully developed story each semester.

Faculty

Fiction Workshop

Open , Seminar—Fall

Nabokov stated that there are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. In this semester-long workshop, we will consider all three; but it is with the art of enchantment that this workshop is most dedicated. We will walk through the process of writing a story. Where does the story come from? How do we know when we are ready to begin? How do we avoid succumbing to safe and unoriginal decisions and learn to recognize and trust our more mysterious and promising impulses? How do our characters guide the work? How do we come to know an ending, and how do we earn that ending? And, finally, how do we create the enchantment necessary to involve, persuade, and move the reader in the ways that fiction is most capable. We will investigate these questions through a series of exercises meant to generate and sustain your visions of a story, as well as to put into practice the various elements of fiction: plot, character, setting, detail, dialogue, and exposition. We will learn how these seemingly practical conventions of story writing can be used to virtuosic effect by authors such as Donald Barthelme, Jamaica Kinkaid, James Baldwin, Flannery O’Connor, Tobias Wolff, ZZ Packer, George Saunders, and others. You will generate your conference work from your readings and exercises, develop it through close critique in our classes and conferences, present it in preliminary workshops, and, finally, submit your best work in a series of formal workshops at the end of the semester.

Faculty

The Unconscious, The Absurd, The Sublime, and the Impossibly Probable

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

This one-semester workshop will venture into more unlikely fictional territories: dream narratives, preposterous situations served up matter-of-factly, unscary ghost stories, speculative fiction, and virtuosic works that elude comprehension but deliver you to the profound and pleasurable edges of apprehension. To jar us from our more prosaic and safe forms of fiction, we will begin the semester with a series of exercises inspired by the stories of authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Borges, Nabokov, George Saunders, Carmen Maria Machado, and Octavia Butler, as well as essays by Carl Jung, Immanuel Kant, and Charles Baxter. You will generate your conference work from the readings and exercises, develop it through close critique in our classes and conferences, present it in preliminary workshops, and, finally, submit your best work in a series of formal workshops at the end of the semester.

Faculty

Previous Courses

First-Year Studies: Necessary Hero

Open , FYS—Year

Imagine a hero who grows up in the Appalachian Mountains and receives a scholarship to a private school in Malibu Beach, or a hero who is a Mexican immigrant and lives near the Oakland shipyards. Imagine a child from Norway whose family immigrates to North Dakota in the 1870s, or a teenager who develops solar technology for her village in India. What about their characters will begin to distinguish each as a hero? What flaws or beliefs? What innovative actions will their circumstances, culture, gender, or time in history necessitate? The only requirement for each student’s hero(es) is that he, she, or they are human and living on Earth. Over this yearlong course, each writer will develop a sustained hero’s tale that will require the accurate imagination of place, time, character, and actions in response to each hero’s challenges and obstacles. Writers will research, as well as reflect on, heroic models from antiquity to the present day. Because this is a FYS course, we will incorporate exercises and lessons related to the basic elements of fiction, point of view, structure, character, setting, and dialogue. We will read and analyze model stories that reflect those aspects of craft and depict different kinds of heroes. We will also read contextual texts such as Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, as well as a short digest of historical events called A Little History of the World. In addition to meeting in our biweekly class seminars, I will meet with each of you individually in biweekly conferences. In alternate weeks, we will meet in small focus groups.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Fiction Writing Workshop

Open , Seminar—Year

Nabokov stated that there are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. We will consider all three, but it is with the art of enchantment that this workshop is most dedicated. We will walk through the process of writing a story. Where does the story come from? How do we know when we are ready to begin? How do we avoid succumbing to safe and unoriginal decisions and learn to recognize and trust our more mysterious and promising impulses? How do our characters guide the work? How do we come to know an ending, and how do we earn that ending? And finally, how do we create the enchantment necessary to involve, persuade, and move the reader in the ways that fiction is most capable. Our course will investigate the craft of fiction through readings, discussion, and numerous exercises. In the second semester, we move on to explore dream narratives, the sublime, the absurd, and the fantastic. We study a democratically chosen novel and, possibly, graphic fiction and a film. Our objective is for you to write, revise, and workshop at least one fully developed story each semester.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

First the Basics, Then On to Stranger Fiction

Open , Seminar—Year

In this yearlong fiction-writing workshop, you will acquaint yourselves with basic elements of fiction such as point of view, character, plot and structure, dialogue and exposition, detail and scene, as well as other more sophisticated concepts related to the craft and imaginative process of fiction. Principals such as counterpoint characterization, defamiliariazation, and the sublime, among others, are explored through lessons, writing exercises, and assigned readings, as well as authors’ works that you wish to share with the class. We attend readings and craft talks by the guest writers in our reading series. We form small groups to more closely study various aspects of fiction and to help each other draft your stories. We move on in the second semester to explore the unconscious, dream narratives, the absurd, and speculative fiction. We study two democratically chosen novels and a film. Some of the authors we will be studying and, at times, modeling are Flannery O’Connor, James Agee, James Baldwin, Tobais Wolff, ZZ Packer, Marquez, Kafka, Borges, Nabokov, Carmen Marchado, George Saunders, and Octavia Butler. The core of the course is the students’ own development as fiction writers. We have a lot of fun trying numerous exercises and approaches to stories. We work closely in conference on your writing, and each of you will present at least one final developed story for our workshop each semester.

Faculty

Fiction Workshop

Open , Seminar—Spring

Nabokov stated that there are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. We will consider all three, but it is with the art of enchantment that this workshop is most dedicated. We will walk through the process of writing a story. Where does the story come from? How do we know when we are ready to begin? How do we avoid succumbing to safe and unoriginal decisions and learn to recognize and trust our more mysterious and promising impulses? How do our characters guide the work? How do we come to know an ending, and how do we earn that ending? And finally, how do we create the enchantment necessary to involve, persuade, and move the reader in the ways that fiction is most capable. We will investigate these questions through a series of exercises meant to generate and sustain your visions of a story, as well as to put into practice the various elements of fiction: plot, character, setting, detail, dialogue, and exposition. We will learn how these seemingly practical conventions of story writing have been used to virtuosic effect by authors such as Donald Barthelme, Jamaica Kinkaid, James Baldwin, Flannery O’Connor, Tobias Wolff, ZZ Packer, George Saunders, and others. You will generate your conference work from your readings and exercises, develop it through close critique in our classes and conferences, present it in preliminary workshops, and finally submit your best work in a series of formal workshops at the end of the semester.

Faculty

The Unconscious, The Absurd, the Sublime, and The Impossibly Probable

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

This one-semester workshop will venture into more unlikely fictional territories: dream narratives, preposterous situations served up matter-of-factly, unscary ghost stories, speculative fiction, and virtuosic works that elude comprehension but deliver you to the profound and pleasurable edges of apprehension. To jar us from our more prosaic and safe forms of fiction, we will begin the semester with a series of exercises inspired by the stories of authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Jorge Luis Borges, Angela Carter, George Saunders, Clarice Lispector, and David Foster Wallace, as well as essays by Carl Jung, Immanuel Kant, and Charles Baxter. You will generate your conference work from the readings and exercises, develop it through close critique in our classes and conferences, present it in preliminary workshops, and finally submit your best work in a series of formal workshops at the end of the semester.

Faculty