Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Have Your Whole Novel Critiqued

Having your novel critiqued in a traditional workshop setting can be frustrating, especially if you’re done with the book and have to constantly “wait your turn” before showing your chapters to the rest of the group. Though I enjoy teaching workshops that focus on novels-in-progress, when you’re finished with a manuscript, you need one (or more) readers who can read the whole thing straight through. Here’s a nice option, run by Richard Peabody, a popular teacher/writer in the DC area:

Richard describes his class thusly:

Limited to 5 students. We meet every two weeks on Wednesday nights 7:30 until 10pm at my house in Arlington, Virginia. Four to five blocks from Virginia Square Metro station.

1. June 27
2. July 11
3. July 25
4. August 8
5. August 22
6. September 5
7. September 11 [Tuesday]

Cost is $500 to be paid before the first night. Due to people dropping the class at the last minute and forcing me to cancel the entire session I now require that $125 of this fee be non-refundable and paid before the class begins.

Every participant turns in their complete novel and synopsis the first night along with 5 copies for everybody else and me. That way you get handwritten notes on everything from everybody. And you should feel free to recommend cuts, improvements, make suggestions, mark the manuscripts up at will. That's what this class is all about. By meeting every two weeks each participant should have plenty of time to complete their critiques.

If you can't attend every meeting (which I demand save for unforeseeable illness or death in the family as it's a question of fairness and honor) please don't bother signing up.

Why do I teach this class? Because you can go to your favorite bookshop and lift any number of contemporary novels off the shelf and read a few chapters only to discover that they fall apart at chapter four. Why? I’ve found that most MFA programs only critique the first three chapters of your manuscript. Plus, I’ve learned from the hands-on experience of teaching this course that a complete reading and critique is absolutely the best way (dare I say only way?) to go. What’s the advantage of a small class like this one? There’s nothing quite like having five people discuss your characters as though they were living people for 2 ½ hours. What sorts of novels are eligible? Generally I handle serious literary fiction (both realism and experimental works), but the class has included YA, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Horror, Thriller, and Romance novels.

If you are interested do please email me a chapter and a synopsis. I'm only considering completed novels in the 250-350 dbl. spaced page range. (That’s one-sided, double spaced, 12pt. in Courier font.) Anything longer than that is pretty much wishful thinking right now due to grim market economics and politics. Most first novels are 300 dbl. spaced pages which equals 200pp. in book form. Simply a fact of the biz. Second novels are frequently a different story.

Alumni from Peabody’s 22 years of university, Writer’s Center, and private classes with filmed screenplays, books in print (or forthcoming) include: TMark Baechtel, Doreen Baingana, Toby Barlow, Maggie Bartley, Jodi Bloom, Sean Brijbasi, Peter Brown, Robert Cullen, Priscilla Cummings,Katherine Davis, Lucinda Ebersole, Sandy Florian, Cara Haycak, Dave Housley, Catherine Kimrey, Adam Kulakow, Nathan Leslie, Redge Mahaffey, Charlotte Manning, Meena Nayak,Matthew Olshan, William Orem, Mary Overton, Saideh Pakravan, Carolyn Parkhurst, Sally Pfoutz, Nani Power, Carey Roberts, Lisa Schamess, Brenda Seabrooke, Julia Slavin, David Taylor, Lisa M. Tillman, Sharlie West, and Yolanda Young.

The class meets at Richard’s house in Arlington, near the Central Library on Quincy Street. For more information: (703) 525-9296; cell (703) 380-4893, or email, gargoyle AT gargoylemagazine.com.

About: Richard Peabody wears many literary hats. He is editor of Gargoyle Magazine (founded in 1976), has published a novella, two books of short stories, six books of poems, plus an e-book, and edited or co-edited fourteen anthologies including: Mondo Barbie, Mondo Elvis, Mondo Marilyn, Mondo James Dean, Coming to Terms: A Literary Response to Abortion, Conversations with Gore Vidal, A Different Beat: Writings by Women of the Beat Generation, Grace and Gravity: Fiction by Washington Area Women, Alice Redux: New Stories of Alice, Lewis, and Wonderland, Sex & Chocolate: Tasty Morsels for Mind and Body, Enhanced Gravity: More Fiction by Washington Area Women and Kiss the Sky: Fiction and Poetry Starring Jimi Hendrix. Electric Grace: Still More Fiction by Washington Area Women is forthcoming in November of 2007, to be followed by Stress City: A Big Book of Fiction by Fifty DC Guys in spring 2008. Peabody teaches fiction writing for the Johns Hopkins Advanced Studies Program and the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He lives in Arlington, Virginia. You can find out more here or at http://www.gargoylemagazine.com/.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.