Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Popular Fiction: Presentation and Workshop Samples


The Future is Next Week – The eBook (P)

Magdalen Braden, James Patrick Kelly, Malissa Kent, Michael Kimball, Mur Lafferty (panel)

Adam Gallardo, Kendall Giles, Derek Hoffman, Taylor Preston (E-Book Pioneers)

E-Readers and E-Books are here to stay, and the technology expands and changes every day. E-Publishing now gives writers access to two major functions of publishing that have long been held by the industry: production and distribution. As part of Stonecoast’s ongoing commitment to stay ahead of the e-publishing curve, our new STONECOAST E-TEAM presents a dynamic panel discussion.

The Future is Next Week – The eBook

1) The Book: Will E replace Paper?

2) Now that we all can e-Publish our masterpiece (or rough draft), why wait?

3) How-to: The basic steps of ePublishing your eBook

4) Marketing your work in the E-World

5) New and growing opportunities in the eWorld: editorial, marketing, consulting, audioBook, comic book, ACX, ePublishing, etc

Required Reading: 

Jane Friedman’s daily blog: Exploring what it means to be a writer in the digital age:

Suggested Reading:

A Simpler Way:

Malissa M. Kent,Want to e-Publish? A Guide for Everyone

Stonecoast E-TEAM

Magdalen Braden

David Anthony Durham

Adam Gallardo

Kendall Giles

Elizabeth Hand

Derek Hoffman

James Patrick Kelly

Malissa Kent

Michael Kimball

Mur Lafferty

Taylor Preston

Whodunnit?  How? And Why?: Writing the Murder Mystery (C)

Joanne Dobson           

While curiosity and suspense drive all storytelling, the urgent narrative momentum generated by the central queries of the murder mystery (with their compelling insistence on good old-fashioned resolution) provides an irresistible reading experience. 

This presentation will provide a brief history of the murder mystery genre, differentiate it from the thriller or the novel of suspense, and tease out its various subgenres, from the coziest of the cozy to the grimmest of sociopolitical critiques.  Do you wish to amuse readers?  Comfort them?  Inform them?  Disconcert them?  Horrify them?  The mystery genre provides the page-turning conventions to do so.

Discussion time will provide opportunity to explore your particular genre interests, as well as to study Walter Mosley’s use of genre conventions to create a compelling, relevant, accessible and politically urgent historical novel. 

Required Reading:

Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress

How to Write a Novel in 30 Days (C)

Cat Valente

Nanowrimo and other online novel-writing workshops have done a great deal to bolster the idea of speed writing. But how do you write fast while maintaining a high level of quality? We’ll discuss tactics for achieving wordcount, preparation, quality control and post-30 days editing as well as myths about fast writers and how to train yourself so that marathons like this become repeatable strategies. Hugo-nominee Valente has written several novels using these tools.

Required Reading: one of the following:

John Clute, The Darkening Garden

John Clute, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy

Suggested Reading:

Cat Valente, Palimpsest

Cat Valente, The Habitation of the Blessed

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Books to Games: The Art of Game Design (C, CC)

Jay Libby

As writers we spend most of our time coming up with great characters, plots and settings. We draw people into our worlds and hope they want more. But what happens after you’ve published that great novel when the hype dies down? Go to the next step: make it a game! The world of game design is at our doorstep. The game industry is a great side profession for any Pop Fiction writer. Most double as writers for both games and TV novels, like Aaron Rosenberg, who has written Star Trek novels and the now famous Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game. All it takes is a lot of passion for the hobby and patience. Not every game you design or every book you write is going to be an instant hit.

In this presentation we will discuss the audience, types of games, building your game from a piece of fiction and where to get started once you’ve finished the project.

Required Reading:

Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber, Challenges for Game Designers

True Crime (C)

Michael Kimball, Lt Detective Bill Harwood, Deputy Chief, Ret. Joseph K. Loughlin, Scott Wolven

How is technology changing police investigative work? How do you know if you’re being lied to? When do you inform suspects of their Miranda rights? How useful are DNA and fingerprints? What psychological tricks do you use in the interview room? What TV shows get it right? Bring your questions about police work to this stimulating, fact-filled 90-minute session with crime writers Michael Kimball and Scott Wolven, and their special guest Joseph K. Loughlin, a 27-year veteran of the Portland Police force and co-author of the 2006 Edgar-nominated book Finding Amy: A True Story of Murder in Maine.

Required Readings:

Joseph K. Loughlin and Kate Clark Flora, Finding Amy: A True Story of Murder in Maine,


Joseph Wambaugh, The Onion Field

Agatha: Plotmistress Par Excellence (C)

Kazim Ali, Boman Desai, Nancy Holder

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is arguably the finest of Agatha Christie’s fictions. Some call it the finest detective fiction ever written. This would be hyperbole if we were considering any other writer, but what is inarguable is that Christie has more contenders for the title than anyone else. Ackroyd wins only by the expedient of being the first in a long list of undisputed classics. The panel will discuss some of her techniques of indirection, including the unreliable narrator, and conclude with the concept of the closed box mystery. PLEASE read the suggested stories. They’re ALL short. Otherwise, you will have only yourself to blame for the disappointment of learning the endings during the panel instead of curled up in your favorite armchair burning midnight oil – and that would be criminal!

Require Reading:

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Three Blind Mice, novella, the first in the collection titled The Mousetrap, formerly Three Blind Mice and Other Stories [not to be mistaken for the play, The Mousetrap, derived from the short].

“Strange Jest,” the second story in the above collection, Three Blind Mice and Other Stories.

“Witness for the Prosecution,” the first story in the collection of the same name, Witness for the Prosecution [not to be mistaken for the play of the same name derived from the short].

Death in the Air (AKA Death in the Clouds)

Suggested Reading:

(I will not reveal the endings but will discuss very briefly some plot points of):

Murder on the Orient Express

Ten Little Indians

Death on the Nile

Cards on the Table

Techniques of Comic Writing (C)

Joan Connor

I will present multiple techniques of writing comically from the silly to the snarky, the three dominant theories of comedy, as well as the phases of classical comedy as a genre.

In class we will study examples which focalize some of these techniques.  (I will provide packets which include an E.B. White critical essay, a Thurber comical essay, as well as comic poems.)

I will also make reference to the following comic works: Self-Help, Lorrie Moore; Van Gogh’s Room at Arles, Stanley Elkins; A Supposedly Fun Thing That I Will Never Do Again (essay only) David Foster Wallace; Naked, David Sedaris; April Fool’s Day, Josip Novokavich; The Woman Who Liked Clean Restrooms, J.P. Donleavey

Required Reading:

David Foster Wallace’s essay, “A Supposedly Fun Thing That I will Never Do Again,” in his collection A Supposedly Fun Thing That I will Never Do Again

Stanly Elkins’ novella, Van Gogh’s Room at Arles: Three Novella

Familiarity with the rest of these works will help to facilitate discussion.  Bring your laughter with you.