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Illuminating Fiction

Sherry Ellis

Publication Year: 2009

Conducting author interviews was not part of her plan, but one day when she was perusing a writing publication she came across an announcement about an upcoming workshop in which author interviews would be the focus. Motivated by her long-term love of fiction, her ever-expanding love of writing, and her quest for authorial knowledge, she decided to take the workshop. Initially she interviewed Paul Lisicky and Jill McCorkle, writers with whom she had already studied. After these interviews were accepted by a prestigious art magazine and literary journal, she interviewed other writers with whom she had studied: Ron Carlson and Margot Livesey. Ellis then started reaching out to authors she had never met before: Edward P. Jones, Julia Glass, Steve Almond, Amy Bloom, Chris Abani, to name a few. And the amazing thing was that the majority of authors she approached agreed to be interviewed. After she realized she had nearly enough interviews for an anthology the concept of Illuminating Fiction was born. The interviews contained in Illuminating Fiction include unique questions drawn from the text of the authors' work, questions about narrative voice, character, place, point of view, plot, revision, questions about the arc of the story/novel, questions about writing process, questions about the trajectory of the writer's career, and questions about the role and importance of writing courses and mentoring. Interviewed authors also provided their opinions of quotes about writing and creativity by other authors and artists, and they respond to questions about the challenges they face in developing their craft. The reader is thereby able to gain an intimate and specific understanding of the writer's words and craft, and what was going on in the author's mind as they created their novels, short stories, and poems.

Published by: Red Hen Press

Title Page, Copyright, Acknowledgments, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

As a child, my weekly pilgrimages to the local library were among my favorite parts of the week. I loved reading books of fiction and when I was only four years old I tried to get my first library card. As I grew older I continued to be an avid reader. ...

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Foreword to Early Draft: from The Known World, by Edward P. Jones

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pp. 1

It is with great delight and appreciation that I introduce the following excerpt from an early draft of the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Known World, by Edward P. Jones. This early section is included in Illuminating Fiction with the objective of showing not only the importance of the art and craft of fiction writing, ...

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Stamford: A Short Story by Edward P. Jones

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pp. 2-8

The day and the sun all about him told that was true. Now, it mattered not how long he had wandered in the wilderness, how long they had kept him in chains, how long he had helped them and kept himself in his own chains; none of that mattered now. He saw Ellwood turn onto the street where he had business, ...

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Edward P. Jones: Imagined Worlds

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pp. 9-19

In the novel The Known World, Edward P. Jones explores the life and times of Henry Townsend, a former slave, who learns the ways of slave ownership from his former owner. Jones builds as his fictional stage the community of Manchester, Virginia, the town in which Henry was born and raised. ...

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Julia Glass: A Palette of Words

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pp. 20-30

Julia Glass, winner of the 2002 National Book Award for Fiction, invited the characters in Three Junes to set up a home inside of her head. Three Junes is a lush and evocative novel told through the eyes of a grieving Scottish widower, a single pregnant woman, and a young gay man. ...

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Arthur Golden: A Sense of Urgency

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pp. 31-45

Arthur Golden has been interested in writing stories since he was five years old. By the time he was in high school and college his interest in story writing grew and he also started writing newspaper articles. No matter what academic path he followed, including his undergraduate study of art history, his graduate study of Japanese history, ...

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Jill McCorkle: Every Town Has Its Stories

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pp. 46-56

Jill McCorkle was raised in Lumberton, North Carolina. The summer after she completed second grade, she transformed her father’s wooden work shed into a writing room, and decorated it with dress-up clothing, a tea set and fishing gear. ...

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Matthew Sharpe: Novels as Omnivores

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pp. 57-66

The Sleeping Father, the second novel written by Matthew Sharpe, was rejected by twenty major publishers before it was purchased by Soft Skull Press for an advance of one thousand dollars. It tells the story of Bernard Schwartz, who unknowingly mixes two types of antidepressants, loses consciousness, has a stroke, ...

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Mary Yukari Waters: What I Will Follow

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pp. 67-78

Mary Yukari Waters was born in a traditional Kyoto neighborhood where tofu vendors honked their horns each evening, and narrow, crooked lanes led into hidden shrines. This neighborhood is the setting for many of the short stories in her collection The Laws of Evening. ...

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Ron Carlson: Inventory of Ron Carlson

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pp. 79-91

When Ron Carlson was in the sixth grade at the Edison Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah, he wrote skits for his friends. His love of words has only continued to grow with time. By 1983, thirteen years into his writing career, he learned to accept not knowing where his stories were heading. ...

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Amy Bloom: Characters That Won’t Go Away

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pp. 92-99

Amy Bloom started writing when she was thirty-four, after she had already earned a Master’s in social work and established herself as a psychotherapist. She is the author of two collections of stories: Come to Me, which made the short list for the National Book Award in 1993 and received the Los Angeles Times Fiction Award; ...

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Lise Haines: Blindfolds, Hypnotism, and Chairs

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pp. 100-108

Lise Haines is the author of two novels, Small Acts of Sex and Electricity (a 2006 BookSense Pick) and In My Sister’s Country (a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize), and a chapbook of poetry, Thin Scars/Purple Leaves. Her short stories have appeared in literary journals including Ploughshares, Agni and Post Road.

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Paul Lisicky: Looking for Surprise

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pp. 109-119

Paul Lisicky’s books include Lawnboy and Famous Builder. His shorter work has appeared in Ploughshares, Short Takes, Open House, Flash Fiction, Prairie Schooner, Boulevard, Creating Nonfiction, Truth in Nonfiction and in many other anthologies and magazines. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his awards include fellowships ...

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Lan Samantha Chang: Memories That Reach Back into Consciousness

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pp. 120-129

Before she could read, Lan Samantha Chang started writing by copying pictures and letters. Since age four, she has known that she wanted to be a writer. She was born and raised in Appleton, Wisconsin, the daughter of Chinese parents who survived the Japanese occupation of China and subsequently migrated to the United States. ...

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Steve Almond: Revealing Your Characters

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pp. 130-139

Steve Almond is the author of two collections of short stories, The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories and My Life in Heavy Metal, and Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, a memoirist ode to the origin of the candy bar. Almond writes about passion, sex, and heartbreak and has been dubbed the poet laureate of sex. ...

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Joan Leegant: The Life Around Them: Animating the Inanimate

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pp. 140-150

In An Hour in Paradise, her collection of short stories, Joan Leegant explores themes of Jewish lore, wisdom, and religion. Inanimate objects breathe with life and develop personality traits and behaviors of their own. Characters seize moments of pleasure, moments of joy, when they are least expected. ...

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Kathleen Spivack: Pulling Yourself In

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pp. 151-159

In 1986, Kathleen Spivack was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her fourth book of poetry, The Beds We Lie In. While Spivack feels very much a part of the tapestry of current writing, she believes that the most important thing that occurred in her writing career was her long-term study with Robert Lowell, ...

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Chris Abani: Coming to Elvis

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pp. 160-170

When Chris Abani’s 2004 novel GraceLand begins, the protagonist, Elvis Oke, is trying to earn a living on a beach in Lagos, Nigeria. He puts on a wig, a thick layer of talcum powder, and does impersonations of Elvis Presley. However, unlike his hero, he is impoverished and lives in a slum, a world without opportunity, ...

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Elizabeth Searle: Mistress of Ceremonies

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pp. 171-179

Elizabeth Searle writes about gender-bending, actresses and actors, mentally challenged and autistic individuals, women, and their bodies. Several of the characters in her most recent book, Celebrities in Disgrace are obsessed with fame and being watched. Her most recent work is the libretto for Tonya & Nancy: The Opera, ...

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Margot Livesey: A Little in Common

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pp. 180-191

Banishing Verona, Margot Livesey’s most recent and fifth novel, tells the story of Zeke Cafarelli and Verona MacIntyre, who share a passionate onenight affair in London. Zeke is a handyman who has Asperger’s Syndrome and a host of related symptoms. Verona is already seven months pregnant, a confident, quick-tempered, moderately successful radio show host. ...

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Fred Leebron: Growing the Story

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pp. 192-200

Fred Leebron’s novels include Out West, Six Figures, and In the Middle of All This. His stories have appeared in the Gettsyburg Review, Ploughshares, Grand Street, the North American Review, the Quarterly, the Threepenny Review, the Iowa Review, TriQuarterly, and Double Take, and are included in the anthologies The New Generation, Flash Fiction, and The Exiled. ...

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Yiyun Li: Tell, Don’t Show

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pp. 201-211

Li was born and raised in China. She was a high school student in Peking when student protests occurred in Tiananmen Square. Two years later, when she was eighteen years old and planning on attending Peking University, she was conscripted into the army for political re-education. ...

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About the Editor

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Sherry Ellis is the editor of NOW WRITE! Fiction Writing Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers, which was selected as one of the best writing books of 2006 by The Writer magazine. Her book of nonfiction, NOW WRITE! Non-Fiction will be published in January 2010 by Tarcher. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781597091954
E-ISBN-10: 1597091952
Print-ISBN-13: 9781597090681
Print-ISBN-10: 1597090689

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: First