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fiction writing Shimon Tanaka

“Of the many definitions of a story, the simplest may be this: it is a piece of writing that makes the reader want to find out what happens next. Good writers, it is often said, have the ability to make you keep on reading them whether you want to or not—the milk boils over, the subway stop is missed.”

—Bill Buford, former fiction editor of The New Yorker

This course will introduce students to an assortment of short stories by past and contemporary masters, from Ernest Hemingway to ZZ Packer. We will explore the basic elements of fiction writing, including story structure, point of view, dialogue, and exposition, always keeping in mind the overarching goal of trying to get the reader to turn the page in anticipation. Some summer reading and participation in an online blog will prepare us for discussions we’ll have together when the class begins. The course will indeed be “intensive,” as we will write a complete draft of a short story in the first week and then distribute these stories for feedback sessions in the second week. Along the way, we’ll write additional short exercises to stimulate our imaginations and to practice elements of craft. Field trips will include visits to some of the vibrant literary hotspots in San Francisco as well as a conversation with Stephen Elliott, editor of The Rumpus and a writer and member of the Writer’s Grotto collective.

Shimon Tanaka is a Jones Lecturer in the Creative Writing Program. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, The Missouri Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, and the anthology Best

New American Voices. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Asian Cultural Council, the Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, and the Stegner Program at Stanford University.

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