SWR: An Interview with Instructor Stacey Swann

“I am a firm believer that every writer can better understand their work when they understand the structure of it.” – Stacey Swann

This July, our month-long virtual Summer Writing Retreat features three great classes (Fiction, Memoir, Revision), plus weekly special events. The Fiction class will be taught by Stacey Swann, author of the novel Olympus, Texas, a Good Morning America Book Club pick that has received rave reviews. This year, Stacey will be tackling “Beginnings, Middles, and Endings: Fiction at Every Stage” and we are so excited to see how the four weeks unfold.

We asked Stacey to share some thoughts on the class with us – here’s what she had to say. 

Scribe: You’ve taught at the Summer Writing Retreat previously, welcome back! Can you tell us why you enjoy this event and spending time with this community of writers? 

SS: It’s always wonderful to be in conversation with writers in the WLT classes, but there’s a special connection in the Summer Writing Retreat. Getting extended time to get to know both students and their works in progress, and to build an all-new community with them, is always tremendously rewarding.

Scribe: You’re teaching the Fiction class and are focusing on Beginnings, Middles, and Endings: Fiction at Every Stage – can you tell us why you wanted to approach fiction from this angle? 

SS: I am a firm believer that every writer can better understand their work when they understand the structure of it. If we think of a story or novel as its own body, plot may be the muscles that move it through the world, but structure is its bones. We want all our work to have strong bones!

Scribe: How does this topic resonate with your own work and your own development as a writer? 

SS: For a lot of my writing life, even through my MFA and later workshops, I learned a lot about characterization, theme, dialogue, and other focused craft issues, but we had less practice in stepping back to really deconstruct the structure. It was only when I started doing more freelance editing work on novels that I began to understand its importance, and that was a huge help in revising my own debut novel.

Scribe: How would you finish this sentence: If the students in my class take away one thing from the four weeks, I hope it’s: 

SS: …a new lens to better see, and to better understand, the works they are creating and how they are put together.

Stacey Swann’s debut novel Olympus, Texas—published in 2021 by Doubleday, W&N (UK), and Bompiani (Italy)—was a Good Morning America Book Club pick, an Indie Next selection, and longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Swann holds an M.F.A. from Texas State University and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her stories have appeared in EpochMemoriousVersal, and other journals, and she is a contributing editor of American Short Fiction.

Thanks, Stacey!

Click here to learn more about Stacey Swann’s fiction class at the 2022 Summer Writing Retreat.

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