Wednesday, May 20, 2015

LU MFA Foundations: Literary Fiction & Genre Fiction--Wm. Anthony Connolly

It can be difficult, but not impossible, to discern the difference between fiction that is literary from fiction that is genre. In much the same way we’d know the difference between classical and hip hop music, we can know the difference between literary and genre fiction. In this analogy, music is music. Well, fiction is fiction, too. Music comes in types. Fiction comes in types. The important thing to remember is that the term literary is not a value judgment, much in the same way the term hip hop is not a value judgment, but rather a way to say what type of music it is.

Literary is a type of fiction. Genre is another. I have published novels in both types. My last novel PKgrrl is genre fiction. The novel I have coming out soon The Smallest Universe is literary.

Let’s attempt to discern between the two:

1. The term literary does not mean high brow. In other words, the term itself has a hard time being understood because at one time in your reading education you were chided for not understanding a story and from that day forward the term for such a shame was literary. Anything literary was this kind of writing only for smart people or the pretentious. NOT TRUE. 

2. Language vs. Story. Here’s a biggie. In literary fiction you notice language (the words used, metaphors, allusions); in genre fiction you notice story (the plot, and then what happened…). If you are reading a book and it’s a page-turner and you can’t wait to know what happens next, you’re reading a genre novel. If, on the other hand, as you are reading a book you find yourself loving the words, the metaphors, the character being developed before your eyes, you’re reading literary. This is not to say a genre novel can’t be literature (a different term): I consider Dune, Frankenstein, Lord of the Rings, Childhood’s End, and others to be literature!

3. Character vs. Plot. In literary fiction the book is developed and focused around the character whereas in genre fiction the book is developed and focused around plot. This is a variation on #2. In other words, the language you use is very very important because you are developing a character. In genre fiction, you are concerned with structure, the structure of conflict-choice-consequences because you are creating a story/plot.

4. Who vs What. By now, you should have a good notion that literary fiction is about who while genre fiction is about what.

Here’s how you can tell the difference here: Take a representative page of your work. Read it and answer the following questions — Do I know more now about the character or the plot? In a work that is literary the answer is the former; for genre, it’s the latter. 

Some other things to consider:
For any specialized writing course — science fiction, the short story, poetry, etc., it is very, very important to read in the specialized area. When you are enrolled in a literary fiction class, I suggest you pick up a literary book or two to use as models. In other words, when you’re stuck or need inspiration go to experts, published authors in the specialized area and see how they wrote, borrow from them, learn from them. While in a literary fiction class, you should be reading literary fiction. Only makes sense. 

When you register for Literary Novel Workshop: Polishing the In-Progress Novel or any course for that matter, you need to understand what you’re getting yourself into, as best you can. This course could have easily been called Fantasy Novel Workshop: Polishing the In-Progress Novel and guess what, you’d need to understand what fantasy means, right; and be interested in writing it! Only makes sense.

5. Literary is incarnation and idiosyncratic. This is the heart of what literary is, it’s also its most hard to understand because it’s not something that can be readily taught. Let me break it down:

A. Incarnation: Make your character real. Simple right? Well, yes and no. To flesh out your character you have to, regardless of POV, see the world through them and in order to do so you must create them, and the only way to create something from abstraction (in your head) to concrete (on the page) is through words. So, in this way, the very words you choose to describe, set, put into action, all are directed toward the character. You get to play at being a god. You decided how words serve as the fire, the fuel, the DNA of the character so much so that when someone reads about your character they’re inside the mind or psyche of that character. Just look at yourself, what are your favorite words? What expressions have you always said? How do you look at the world; and what are the words you’d use to describe it? Because of my journey my words are different from yours because you’ve had a different journey. Think of your character as another entirely different person. Use words to make it flesh.

B. Idiosyncratic: This cannot be taught. I have a love for words and I love to encode my fiction with words that will blossom in the mind of a like-minded reader. I use words like music, in order to instill in the reader an emotion or a feeling I want them to have. I don’t say it outright, I use language to have it arise within the reader. I have a way of looking at the world, and so, I put that down on the page when I’m writing literary, because with literary works not only are you noticing the language, the character, but you are noticing the author him or herself. 
—Wm. Anthony Connolly

On-Campus or Fully Online (No Residency Requirement)

In the LU MFA Foundations series, our faculty members 
discuss or clarify foundational elements of the craft of creative writing.
Other entries in the series are linked here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

May 2015 Commencement

Congratulations to our new Masters of the Fine Art of Writing who walked across the stage tonight at Lindenwood University's May 2015 Commencement: John Tuohy, W.D. County, Teressa Rose Ezell, Jeannette M. Landon, Cassandra Ricard, Chryssa Sharp, and Emily Vieweg.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

LU MFA Foundations: Defining Prose Poetry--Eve Jones

The use of constraint in poetry is like a contract the poet makes with his or her art: "I will write you, but I will write you using this technique, in this form, with these words, with this length of line, playing with this much white space, approaching with this tone, etc." There are both conscious and unconscious decisions made along the way, and when it all comes together, the consequential art is a marriage of content and form, of picture and frame.

Prose poetry is no exception. A prose poem intends to be a poem in its attention to language, but does not employ the use of line like regular poetry. It resembles prose, and in fact, it is cousin to short prose such as flash fiction and the lyric essay. Prose poems may be narrative-based or not. They may have complete, grammatically sound sentences or odd fragments. They may be glimpses of something or the whole shebang. They may brim with metaphor or not. They may be one-sentence or two pages long. They balance the said and the unsaid. They have the same goal as any poem: to wallop the reader with some emotional impact, and to do it with grace. 

By way of illustration, consider a section of Karen Green's book, Bough Down, a section which could rightly be called a prose poem. Or lyric essay. Or memoir-beating-as-heart. It is chronicle of grief following the suicide of her husband, David Foster Wallace. It borrows from prose, it borrows from poetry, it refuses to settle, it is less chronicle and more reaction, more endurance. It is difficult, it balks the tidy rooms of the brain, it wallops. 

Home is where I take up such a tiny portion of the memory foam; home is a splintered word. His pillow is a sweat-stained map of an escape plot, also a map of love’s dear abandon. (When did he give way, at which breath?) Forgiveness may mean retroactively abandoning the pillow and abandoning the photograph of someone with curious eyes, kissing my toes, poolside. I paint my toes Big Apple Red. I don’t know what to do about the shock of red nails on clean, white tiles except get used to it. (And when he gave way, was there room for feelings or the words for feelings?) While I brush my teeth, I can see him in my periphery at the other sink. The outline of him lulls and stings. (And when he gave way, was it the end or the beginning of suffering?) I draw his profile near, I make him brush his teeth with me, he spits and makes a mess. I could love another face, but why? 

In her wonderful “verse novel,” Red Doc >, Anne Carson writes:

“what is the difference between / poetry and prose you know the old analogies prose / is a house poetry a man in flames running / quite fast through it / or / when it meets the mind waves appear (poetry) or / both are defined by length of lines” 

I have found that thorough discussion of the difference between poetry and prose can take an entire term, and, like all that is meaningful and unsettling, the questions linger long after a single course in the genre. After all, there are a lot of ways writers can say the unsayable. There are a lot of houses. A lot of men on fire. 
—Eve Jones

On-Campus or Fully Online (No Residency Requirement)

In the LU MFA Foundations series, our faculty members 
discuss or clarify foundational elements of the craft of creative writing.
Other entries in the series are linked here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Summer 2015 MFA Class Schedule

Click on class titles below to view detailed course info.

ON-CAMPUS CLUSTERS (9 credit hours):
Advanced Scriptwriting Cluster—Monday—Peter Carlos
Fiction Cluster—Thursday—Mark George

ONLINE CLASSES (3 credit hours):

Ekphrastic Poetry—Eve Jones (craft/workshop) -- FULL
International Poetry—Scott Berzon (literature/craft)
The Craft of Poetry—Thai Kaewkaen, Guest Writer (craft/workshop) -- FULL
Plath's Later Ariel Poems & the Tarot—Julia Gordon-Bramer (literature/craft)

Fiction Writing Workshop—Tony D'Souza (workshop) -- FULL
Adv Studies in Contemporary Fiction—Wm. Anthony Connolly (craft/writing exercises)
Young Adult Fiction Workshop—Mary Anderson (workshop/craft) -- FULL
The Prose Collection: Henry Miller—Kelli Allen (literature) -- FULL

The Lyric Essay—Eve Jones (craft/workshop) -- FULL
The Personal Essay—David Hollingsworth (craft/workshop)
The Prose Collection: David Foster Wallace—Kelli Allen (literature) -- FULL

Focused Scriptwriting Workshop—Zachary Vickers (workshop)

The Literary Journal—Beth Mead
  • 2 journal editing course options for summer: Fiction or Poetry/Prose Poetry
  • Students in literary journal classes read, discuss, and vote on submissions to The Lindenwood Review. The classes include other types of assignments but do not include a creative writing component. See course description for full details.


On-campus clusters begin the week of July 6 (7/6 for Scriptwriting and 7/9 for Fiction). 
Online classes begin Monday, July 13. Summer quarter ends September 26. 
Registration instructions are available HERE.

Lindenwood University MFA in Writing Program
On-Campus or Fully Online (No Residency Requirement)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

LU MFA Foundations: Recommended Resource for MLA Format

LU MFA faculty members recommend Purdue's OWL (Online Writing Lab) as an excellent online resource for MLA format. Visit their MLA page at the link below. Following the OWL info below are examples of a Works Cited entry and an in-text citation using MLA format.

From the site:

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th ed.) and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Purdue OWL Staff



Sample Works Cited entry:

Works Cited

McCracken, Elizabeth. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination.  New York: Little,
            Brown  and Company, 2008. Print.

Sample quote with in-text citation:
McCracken describes her best friend’s home as “a sweet house full of snacks and nice girls and good books” (McCracken 81).

On-Campus or Fully Online (No Residency Requirement)

In the LU MFA Foundations series, our faculty members 
discuss or clarify foundational elements of the craft of creative writing.
Other entries in the series are linked here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

LU MFA Foundations: You? A Professional Scholar? -- Julia Gordon-Bramer

It was never originally my intent to become a Scholar—I capitalize the S because this has become a title and one of my principal occupations. This new role of mine sort of happened on its own when I made my discovery around Sylvia Plath’s mysticism in 2007, and then I had to set about proving my findings to the world. And so, here I am, having learned most of what I know from the best school of all: Trial and Error. Here are summaries of the best lessons from that university:

Don’t Discount Your Own Observations
You’re in an MFA Writing program, which means that you share a love for reading and writing with me. Sometimes you can’t help it, you get excited about the work. And you are bound to come up with your own discoveries and observations, drawn from your own unique perspective. We all do this nearly every day and half the time we don’t realize that no scholar has yet to publish on this angle or that one, or to make such-and-such a comparison, or whatever it is. Whether it is the Ancient Greeks, the Renaissance Classics, or Pop Culture, there is the potential for scholarship in every field imaginable. I want to encourage you, when you find something that seems out of the norm or new, stop a moment and see if anyone has published on this before.  If not, here is your opportunity to make your mark on Academia. If the idea has been documented somewhere vaguely or a mention has fallen into obscurity, maybe you will be the one to expand upon it or say it better.

Use Your Libraries
I had no idea until my scholarship began just how willing librarians are to help. They will teach you how to take notes and record findings in the most efficient manner. They’ll find materials and items for you from other libraries. They’ll even let you into their locked archives to handle rare and irreplaceable documents, provided you contact them ahead of time, prove your need to be there (often just a strong interest, a published paper or two on the subject, and/or college or university affiliation), and respect the rules of the institution. Archive rules vary greatly from no photographs and copies, to pencils only, and more; most rules are posted on the library’s website, often under “Special Collections” or “Rare Manuscripts,” where archival resources are held. As librarians are not always writers themselves, their careers are made by your acknowledgement of their work in your publications. When you find yourself returning to the same archives again and again, you can’t help but make friends. They’re dying to help you, because you treasure and respect this nerdy knowledge in a way the world, by and large, does not.

Publish and Prosper
When you publish a number of papers in a particular subject (your passion), voila! You’ve become an expert. You are now someone who journals will turn to to ask for submissions; students, reporters, and other academics will seek your advice; you’ll be cited as a source in others’ academic work; you’ll look great to your college or university for any future teaching gig you have your eyes on; and you may just collect enough material to pull it all together into a book (or more) later on.  When you’ve made sure your idea/observation has traction, write a bullet-proof paper, cite your sources, and send it to some credible publications in your field. Don’t hesitate also to submit your papers as presentations for conferences (just be prepared to have the money to attend—university department budgets tend not to be too helpful to adjunct professors and teaching assistants, although grants are sometimes available to students and others). When you’ve published or presented your paper, get extra mileage from it by making it available to the world on and other websites. You can see what I do with my own work here:

Remember: There is no better recipe for scholarship success than being uniquely yourself and passionate about your subject. To your discoveries!
Julia Gordon-Bramer

Lindenwood University MFA in Writing Program
On-Campus or Fully Online (No Residency Requirement)

In the LU MFA Foundations series, our faculty members 
discuss or clarify foundational elements of the craft of creative writing.
Other entries in the series are linked here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Congratulations to our SRSE winners & participants

On April 22, Lindenwood University hosted the 2015 Student Research Symposium & Exposition. Congratulations to the following LU MFA students who won first place and second place awards at the 2015 SRSE:

First Place:
Adrienne Draper
"The Disappearance"

Second Place:
David Gilmore
"Tailor Made"

Adrienne Draper, First Place

Far Right: David Gilmore, Second Place

Congratulations to all of our MFA participants, listed here.

After the awards ceremony, LU MFA faculty member Kelli Allen hosted a celebration
with writing exercises and cookies for our on-campus students and our fully online students.