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On Teaching and Writing Fiction

Overview

Wallace Stegner founded the acclaimed Stanford Writing Program-a program whose alumni include such literary luminaries as Larry McMurtry, Robert Stone, and Raymond Carver. Here Lynn Stegner brings together eight of Stegner's previously uncollected essays-including four never-before-published pieces -on writing fiction and teaching creative writing. In this unique collection he addresses every aspect of fiction writing-from the writer's vision to his or her audience, from the use of symbolism to swear words, from ...

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On Teaching and Writing Fiction

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Overview

Wallace Stegner founded the acclaimed Stanford Writing Program-a program whose alumni include such literary luminaries as Larry McMurtry, Robert Stone, and Raymond Carver. Here Lynn Stegner brings together eight of Stegner's previously uncollected essays-including four never-before-published pieces -on writing fiction and teaching creative writing. In this unique collection he addresses every aspect of fiction writing-from the writer's vision to his or her audience, from the use of symbolism to swear words, from the mystery of the creative process to the recognizable truth it seeks finally to reveal. His insights will benefit anyone interested in writing fiction or exploring ideas about fiction's role in the broader culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Thoughts on writing—his own and a healthy selection from those he admires—from the late Stegner (Marking the Sparrow's Fall, 1998, etc.), who along his protean way started the Stanford Writing Program. Stegner (1913–93) is not especially concerned here with how to write but rather with what to get at when writing: "an artifact, something shaped and created and capable of communicating whatever wisdom it has arrived at." In these eight essays, one of which includes the short story "Goin' to Town," he makes no bones about the seriousness of the matter. There's no place for the pretentious or the vain, for a piece of fiction is "a trial of the writer's whole understanding and a reflection of his whole feeling and knowing"; the writer is "a vendor of the sensuous particulars of life, a perceiver and handler of things," on a search for meaning, wonder, discovery, involvement. This comes out of life, experiential and inspiriting; the writer arrives at something to say of value and insight, takes the chaos of reality and works it into the picture without blurring the artistic frame: distilled, sharpened, purified. When teaching, "encourage the will to explore, plus impress upon the inexperienced a few of the dos and don'ts . . . certain tested literary tools and techniques and strategies and stances and ways of getting at the narrative essence." To give advice, Stegner calls up the heavy artillery: Conrad, Frost, Hemingway. Sometimes he's high on imagery ("like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting," writes Frost), other times he extols the value of practice and rewriting, cutting the prose clean, honing the exigent art of seeing straight, taking what youwant to say and stating it with the aim of "communicating not only its meaning but its quintessential emotion, the thing that made it important to you in the first place." You write what you are, asserts Stegner, one of those truths no artist escapes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142001479
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/28/2002
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 707,273
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) was the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including the National Book Award-winning The Spectator Bird and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angle of Repose. He received the Robert Kirsch Award from the Los Angeles Times for his lifetime literary achievement.

Biography

Wallace Stegner was born in 1909 in Lake Mills, Iowa. The son of Scandinavian immigrants, he traveled with his parents and brother all over the West-to North Dakota, Washington, Saskatchewan, Montana, and Wyoming-before settling in Salt Lake City in 1921. Many of the landscapes he encountered in his peripatetic youth figure largely in his work, as do characters based on his stern father and athletic, outgoing brother. Stegner received most of his education in Utah, graduating from the University in 1930. He furthered his education at the University of Iowa, where he received a master's and a doctoral degree. He married Mary Stuart Page in 1934, and for the next decade the couple followed Wallace's teaching career-to the University of Wisconsin, Harvard, and eventually to Stanford University, where he founded the creative writing program, and where he was to remain until his retirement in 1971. A number of his creative writing students have become some of today's most well respected writers, including Wendell Berry, Thomas McGuane, Raymond Carver, Edward Abbey, Robert Stone, and Larry McMurty.

Throughout his career and after, Stegner's literary output was tremendous. His first novel, Remembering Laughter, was published in 1937. By the time of his death in 1993 he had published some two dozen works of fiction, history, biography, and essays. Among his many literary prizes are the Pulitzer Prize for Angle of Repose (1971) and the National Book Award for The Spectator Bird (1976). His collection of essays, Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs (1992), was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle award.

Although his fiction deals with many universal themes, Stegner is primarily recognized as a writer of the American West. Much of his literature deals with debunking myths of the West as a romantic country of heroes on horseback, and his passion for the terrain and its inhabitants have earned him the title "The Dean of Western Letters." He was one of the few true Men of Letters in this generation. An historian, essayist, short story writer and novelist, as well as a leading environmental writer. Although always connected in people's minds with the West, he had a long association with New England. Many short stories and one of his most successful novels, Crossing to Safety, are set in Vermont, where he had a summer home for many years. Another novel, The Spectator Bird, takes place in Denmark.

An early environmentalist, he actively championed the region's preservation and was instrumental-with his now-famous 'Wilderness Letter'-in the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act. Honest and straightforward, educated yet unpretentious, cantankerous yet compassionate, Wallace Stegner was an enormous presence in the American literary landscape, a man who wrote and lived with ferocity, energy, and integrity.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Wallace Earle Stegner (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 18, 1909
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lake Mills, Iowa
    1. Date of Death:
      April 13, 1993
    2. Place of Death:
      Santa Fe, New Mexico

Table of Contents

Foreword Fiction: A Lens on Life Creative Writing On the Teaching of Creative Writing To a Young Writer Goodbye to All T__t!
The Writer's Audience A Note on Technique
"Goin' to Town": An Object Lesson

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