Mary LaChapelle

on leave fall semester

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 2017-2018

Writing

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

Previous Courses

Fiction 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. We will investigate the craft of fiction through readings and discussion and numerous exercises. In the second semester, we will move on to explore dream narratives, the sublime, the absurd, and the fantastic. We will study a democratically chosen novel each semester and possibly a film and graphic fiction. Our objective is for you to write, revise, and workshop at least one fully developed story each semester.

Faculty

Necessary Hero: A Fiction Workshop

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

Imagine a hero who is female and grows up in the Appalachian Mountains. Imagine a hero who is male, a Mexican immigrant, and lives near the Oakland shipyards. Imagine a girl from Norway whose family immigrates to North Dakota in the 1870s. What about their characters will begin to distinguish each as a hero? What flaws or beliefs? What innovative actions will their circumstances, culture, or time in history necessitate? The only requirement for each student’s hero is that he or she be human and living on Earth. Over this yearlong course, each writer will develop a sustained hero’s tale. This 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. Along with writing exercises suited to the task, we will read tales of heroes from the Americas, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere: Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Buddha, Moses, Joan of Arc, Nana Triban, Pippi Longstocking, Huck Finn, as well as student-selected literary models.

Faculty

First-Year Studies in Fiction Writing

Open , FYS

In this 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 more sophisticated concepts related to the craft and imaginative process of fiction. Principles such as counterpoint characterization, defamiliariazation, and the sublime, among others, are explored through lessons, writing exercises, and assigned readings. The core of the course is the student’s own development as a fiction writer. We will have a lot of fun trying numerous exercises and approaches to stories. In conference, we will work closely on your writing, and each student will present at least one final developed story for our workshop discussion each semester. You are responsible for writing critiques of each other’s stories, as well as for participating thoughtfully and actively in the workshop discussion. And we will form small groups to more closely discuss the revisions of your stories. We move on in the second semester to explore dream narratives, quest stories and the hero’s journey, and the structures and marvels of graphic fiction. We study a democratically chosen novel and film, and each student will choose an author’s work to share with the class. We’ll attend readings and craft talks by the guest writers in our reading series and make a field trip to the city. We’ll also collaborate at times with Marie Howe’s First-Year Studies in Poetry class.

Faculty

Workshop in Fiction Writing

Open , Seminar—Year

In this yearlong fiction writing workshop, you will acquaint yourselves with such basic elements of fiction 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 through authors’ works that you wish to share with the class. 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. In conference, we work closely on your writing; and each of you will present at least one final developed story for our workshop discussion each semester. You are responsible for critiquing each other’s stories in writing, as well as for participating thoughtfully and actively in the workshop discussion. And we will form small groups to more closely discuss the revisions of your stories. In the second semester, we move on to explore dream narratives, quest stories and the hero’s journey, the structures of jokes, and the gifts of graphic fiction. We will study a democratically chosen novel and film and attend readings and craft talks by the guest writers in our reading series.

Faculty

Workshop in Fiction

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 the craft of fiction through readings and discussion and
numerous exercises. Our objective for the semester is for you to write, revise, and workshop at least one fully developed story.

Faculty