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Alle’s Big Mystery Pick for Hugo House’s Winter Classes: “Being Funny” with Michael Shilling.

Michael Shilling is an excellent teacher. He is committed, he is organized. He offers lots of engaging homework that if you don’t do, oh well. He just wants you to keep coming to class.

Shilling: Funny Guy

After taking his Screenwriting 101, here are my thoughts about his teaching:

  1. Michael has great taste in material; in this case, movies—except for Hot Tub Time Machine.
  2. Michael responds to feedback from his students. He did not make us watch Hot Tub Time Machine.
  3. Michael is outstanding at maintaining classroom balance. He is the best teacher I have ever had curbing the—how to say?—overenthusiastic participants such as (a-hem) while drawing out the more hesitant.
  4. Michael is funny. Funny funny funny. If anyone can teach you how to be funny, Michael can.

I am not laughing that, at this point in my life, I do not have the headspace for a multi-week class. I hope Hugo House will soon offer Michael teaching Writing Funny Screenplays.

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Alle’s Poetry Picks for Winter Classes at Richard Hugo House

call the poetI know nothing about poetry, so don’t ask me. Since you didn’t ask …

Ed Skoog is offering Intro to Poetry Writing. With poetically-appropriate complexity, his class description states, “Previous experience with poetry isn’t required, although all levels are welcome.”

Ooooooooo. I met with Ed (for a fiction piece) during his term as Hugo House Writer in Residence. Of the numerous gems he dropped my way, he said, “Fiction happens in the paragraph.” He encouraged me to reconsider how I approach line breaks. And he was right—my graphs began to happen. I bet he could happen-up your poetry.

Snow Falling on David Guterson is teaching something whose description has something to do with poetry. Poets out there, a little help?

  • Fiction picks here. Non-fiction here.
  • Check back tomorrow for the announcement of The Final Pick: The Mystery Category. And …
  • a poetry-oriented prize-ish thingy involving money. Gobs and gobs of it. A hint.
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Alle’s Fiction picks for Winter Classes at Richard Hugo House

fiction 1Despite my dedication to getting right that essay I’ve been working on for ten years, I am seduced by the number of outstanding fiction offerings in the Hugo House catalog. Here’s what I’d take, had I endless professional development dollars:

  • Ryan Boudinot’s ten-week Master Class in Short Fiction. He is also offering a class called Magical Grab Bag of Mind-Blowing, Writerly Surprises—the name of which tells you all you need to know about the tsunami that is Ryan Boudinot. Last year, I reviewed his astounding novel, Blueprint’s of the Afterlife. So I know everything.
  • Except for what I don’t about {Manuscript + Marketing} = Published. Luckily, Waverly Fitzgerald has me covered. I’ve taken from and taught with Waverly. She gets it—pitches, cover letters; all the angles on self-publishing, as well as self-publishing in context of traditional publishing. If you completed NaNoWriMo, or if you have a novel that you are ready to shop around, Waverly Fitzgerald’s NaNoWriMo! Now What? is essential.
  • Finally, Anthony Doerr’s one-day POV What. Writers of Doerr’s accomplishment are physically not often in Seattle. His number of “year-end Best Of lists” (ALA, NYT), “been anthologized in” (Best American, Anchor’s New American Short Stories, Scribner’s Contemporary Fiction), prizes and awards (four O. Henries, the 2010 Story Prize, The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award; it goes on) and fellowships (Guggenheim, NEA) are great than the number of ideas I have for books.
And he has cute kids?
And he has cute kids?

Despite what I said here, bla bla bla great writers who may not be great teachers; hang on –


I’m registering for POV What in real time!! It’s so The Circle! Can I get a smile and a zing?

Drat! I was wait-listed. Frown. Get yourself wait-listed ASAP.

Check back tomorrow for my poetry picks. Or here for Non-fiction.

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A WriterGrrl asks: What do you think of teacher So-and-so?

In response to posting my picks, one Writergrrrl asked what my opinion of Clare Dederer’s nonfiction/memoir class, Problems in Overwhelm.

I have no personal experience with Dederer as a teacher. I read her pop culture criticism at Seattle Weekly through the 90s, and was happy to see her well-deserved rise to a national level; New York Times, Slate, etc.

That said, good writers are not always good teachers. Last year, I took a workshop from a celebrated Northwest writer. A $100 nap. In direct contrast, in a workshop with the almost-as-famous Aimee Bender, her energy and commitment really took us somewhere. I came out of the class with a start on a fully weird piece about the polka-dotted nursery where babies go after they miscarry. will say that from the looks of things, Dederer’s class has all the makings of a Wendy Call/David Schmader success for writers on the exploratory end of the spectrum. I am enthusiastic about this sentence from her clean-lined class description: “We’ll explore strategies for narrowing and selecting our material.”

Also, hers is an adorable headshot. Don’t forget, tomorrow I post Fiction Picks. Or here for Non-fiction Picks.

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Alle’s Non-fiction picks for Winter Classes at Richard Hugo House

nonfiction 1Creative nonfiction/narrative essays are my thing, these days; currently working on two—one that I have spent ten years trying to get right. Lucky for me, Hugo House is offering a fabulous bunch of non-fiction-y stuff as part of this winter’s line-up.

Last November, I took Nicole Hardy’s workshop, The ‘Modern Love’ Story. Nicole was personable, funny, caring as can be, and organized, organized, organized. She did not hesitate to share information that other successful writers might keep close to the vest. I highly recommend her as a teacher, whether for her class, The Most Personal Essay, or her workshop, The Nonfiction Book Proposal.

If I were on the newer end of writing, or trying to break out of block, I’d go for David Schmader’s Brainstorming. Ditto for Wendy Call’s You Are Here, particularly if I were working on a piece that would benefit from an exploration of Place. Schmaeder and Call are long-time Hugo House teachers, and well-published. Both classes show every promise of living up to their crisp and lively descriptions.

Check back Friday for my Fiction Picks. And on Monday for Poetry.