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The Art of the Short Story
1 December, 2022 at 18:00 – 20:00 EST
Open to all.
Limited to 12 participants.
We plan to hold this workshop in person at the QWF office, with up to two virtual slots available for people who are unable to come to our office. If public health conditions necessitate it, this workshop may transition to a purely online model.
Open to writers of all levels, this 10-week workshop is an investigation of the modern short story. What exactly is a story? What distinguishes it from an anecdote, or a lie? Most of us recognize a good one when we meet it on the page. It moves us, often unexpectedly, to laughter or tears. And it marks us, reaching inside us and shifting, sometimes subtly and other times with a jolt, our views about ourselves and the world. The best stories articulate truths that we hadn’t, until the moment of reading, thought to put into words.
There is no set of rules for how to write a good story. Each writer has to find their own way, and each story demands fresh experiments. Writing is like living. It requires close listening and relentless improvisation. The best way to learn how to write a good story is to read one. In this workshop, we’ll read “In the Cart” (1897) by Anton Chekhov, and investigate Chekhov’s views about this genre. We’ll also look at his technique: how he used elements like detail, narrative point of view, and speech to create a story strong enough to withstand the tests of time and translation. Over a century after Chekhov’s death, his stories are still read and loved in places totally unlike Czarist Russia. What secrets can his work reveal to us in 21st-century Quebec?
Our first four meetings will be devoted to discussing “In the Cart” (accessible online; also translated as “The Schoolmistress,” and “A Journey by Cart”). Exercises relating to various elements of craft will be offered. The last six meetings will be reserved for workshopping our own stories and continuing the exploration of what exactly a story is, and how to write one.
Claire Holden Rothman is a Montreal writer, translator, and fiction editor who has published two collections of stories and three novels. The Heart Specialist (2009) was long-listed for The Scotia Bank-Giller Prize, and My October was long-listed for the Giller and short-listed for the Governor General’s Award. Her most recent novel, Lear’s Shadow, was short-listed for Quebec’s 2020 Jacob Isaac Segal Award, and won the 2019 Vine Award for Jewish Canadian Fiction. For many years, Claire taught English literature and creative writing at Marianopolis College. She has also taught fiction workshops at McGill and Bishop’s Universities.