Instructor Spotlight

Please note this class is now sold out. Check out our other spring offerings here.
Steve Adams’ creative nonfiction was included in the 2014 Pushcart Prize XXXVIII anthology and has been published in Willow Springs, The Pinch, and elsewhere. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, anthologized, and published in Glimmer Train, The Missouri Review, Chicago Review, Georgetown Review, Quarterly West, among others. He is a writing coach here in Austin. You can find out more about Steve by visiting his website.
On February 21, Steve will be teaching a class with co-instructor Meg Pokrass called “Submitting Your Writing to Journals and Magazines: How Not to Lose Your Way or Your Time.” Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.
Scribe: What is the advantage of the short form — whether it be short stories, flash fiction, or essays?
Steve Adams: Some of the advantages of the short form, and how it can complement working with long form, are:

  1. You can finish short pieces relatively quickly, and that provides a sense of accomplishment. One of the difficulties with the long form is that such work can feel like it’s never going to end. It can wear you down. Sometimes it’s good to take a break and write a short piece so you can actually believe it’s possible for you to finish something. Then you can send that out into the world while you’re back at work on the big book.
  2. There are so many outlets for short form. And though many, if not most, pay little or nothing, you still get to see your work in print. Which means readers are reading it (and that’s the bottom line, after all), and that can lead to you and your work landing in places you didn’t expect.
  3. Having had your short work published is one of the best calling cards you can present to agents and editors. The fact that someone chose to publish your work puts you in a category very different from those who haven’t been published.
  4. Some people (and I’m thinking of a well-published friend of mine) simply are much better at short-form writing. And if that’s your strength, then you should go with it.
  5. You can read a short-form piece in one sitting. This gives you an entirely different perspective than reading a novel. When I began, I thought of novels as something like a long short story, but structurally they’re very different. You can make thirty passes at a short piece until it gleams, but it’s just not practical with long form.

Scribe: One of the topics you cover in your class is dealing with rejection. How do you deal with rejection? Do you have any special coping rituals?
SA: The best way I know is to send out another piece the same day. It’s amazing how quickly that lessens the sting. Still, it always hurts to get rejected. The good news is that the more it happens, the tougher you get. It hurts less. But this is simply part of this game. You’re going to get knocked down; you just have to get back up. It’s great life training this way.
Scribe: At what point in your writing career did you begin to feel comfortable teaching other writers the tricks of the trade? Who helped you on your journey?
SA: I found myself spontaneously helping writers when I got my MFA. I became known for getting writing done steadily and regularly, and struggling students started approaching me for tips. I love talking about this stuff, can go on ad nauseum. As far as who helped me, when I was lucky to score a week at the Norman Mailer Writers Colony, I met Valerie Laken, a wonderful writer and writing teacher. We kept up an email correspondence, mostly talking about writing and the writing process. And when the economy collapsed in 2008 and I lost my wonderful day job in NYC, she recommended—because of our conversations—that I look into becoming a writing coach. I didn’t even know people did this. Hell, I’d been helping folks write for free for years. So becoming a writing coach/developmental editor was just a perfect fit. It feels like the work I’m supposed to be doing, and I’ll always be grateful to Valerie.
Scribe: What was it like being a guest artist at your Alma Mater (UT Austin)?
SA: It was a great time. The students were a lot of fun and we got to work with a very big stage. There was tremendous support, and we got to feel like big shots for a semester. And of course, seeing the production itself was such a thrill.
Scribe: What are your favorite things to do in Austin? In addition, do you think that writers in Austin or Texas as a whole have a unique perspective? 
SA: Well, I’m kind of old school, and yes I complain about how fast Austin is changing. Still, there’s the music. The music is the heart of this town. My favorite club was, is, and shall remain The Continental Club. I hope the Broken Spoke survives. And then of course, there’s Barton Springs, which I say is Austin’s version of Central Park.
There are many good writers in Austin now, from all over the country. It’s a legitimate writing scene. This is very different than when I was getting my undergraduate degree here. Yes, I think Texas writers have a unique perspective, but I think that’s true of any writer from any place. What a writer has to do is get clear on their perspective, generally by writing a lot. And never apologize for where you’re from. Like it or not, your viewpoint is embedded there.
–Thanks, Steve!
To register for Steve and Meg’s class, click here.
For a complete list of classes, click here.

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