From Elizabeth Bernstein (The Pang in Your Heart Short Story Workshop, 8 sessions beginning Mon., April 18)
I have been on a reading jag while I finish my short story collection and have been reading whatever I want (not books specifically designed to inspire my own writing) to broaden my imagination. As I finish each book, I jot down a list called, "What can I learn from this?" I just read three wildly different books, all of which had lessons to impart in different ways. The Underminer by Mike Alba, a short, comic novel written in monologue, was funny but lacked a real plot. Yet I was intrigued by how Alba dropped seeds that he picked up in later episodes. That was my note to myself: what seeds have I planted that I can revisit in later stories? Next, reading Lucky Alan — dark, metaphorical stories by Jonathan Lethem — I was struck by the surreal turns these stories take, and reminded myself that in fiction, you can go anywhere and do anything. That house cat in my story? It can start talking if I want it to. The third book I read was The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner, a dense novel about politics, art and friendship. I found the relationship triangle she portrayed fodder for my own narrative exploration.
Three books, chosen at random, all with lessons to impart. Think about posing this question after each book you read: What can I learn from this? Make a list and see what you discover.
Note Three: Our Latest Favorite Book on Writing
From Emily Wolahan (Polish That Poem & Submit It! 1 session, Sat. April 9; The Craft of Poetry, 5 sessions beginning Tues., April 19)
There are many books containing poetry prompts or essays on how to be inspired, but for me the best books on writing poetry are books about poetry itself. Not how-to manuals, but inquiries. In that vein, The Language of Inquiry by Lyn Hejinian is an incredible read. She challenges you to reconsider what a poem is and the result is an incredible engagement with our craft and thought.
Note Four: Upcoming Classes