Meet the Teaching Artist: Building Interiority with Karen E. Bender
by Writing Workshops Staff
3 months ago
We are thrilled to introduce you to teaching artist and National Book Award-finalist, Karen E. Bender, who is offering a captivating series of craft seminars that delve into the art of crafting story beginnings and building interiority in characters.
In these seminars, students spend the first hour dissecting published stories, followed by the second hour dedicated to immersive writing exercises. By delving into the interior worlds of characters, Karen empowers her students to unlock new dimensions of depth and authenticity in their writing. Through the seamless integration of interiority and action, students will discover how to breathe life into their narratives. Generative writing exercises ensure that each participant walks away from the seminar with a wealth of fresh new writing.
Hi, Karen. Please introduce yourself to our audience.
I'm a novelist and short story writer. My stories have won a bunch of prizes, including three Pushcarts, and a nomination for a National Book Award, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories. I've taught at MFA programs, including Hollins, University of Iowa, and Warren Wilson, and currently for SUNY Stony Brook and Alma College. I love the way reading is the one way we can access the consciousness of another person, the way we can understand ourselves and others; it's wonderful when I can help students find the stories they want to share.
What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft?
My classes are always ways I can try to figure out challenges in my own writing. How do I create urgency in a narrative? How do I build interiority in.a character? How do I figure out the best way to open a story? These seem like magic when you read the stories, but as a writer I want to share the tools o help create these effects.
Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?
In my classes, writing is a conversation with reading. Great writers show us how to do it. So I'll share sections from pdfs of some of my favorite stories that illustrate a craft issue, and then give students exercises to practice the technique. Then students who want to share can share work in the chat, so we can see different ways of using the technique. I love the use of the chat in these zoom classes! It's like a meta element of the class, students able to comment on what's working in the pieces. My hope is that students leave the class inspired, with a piece they can develop.
What was your first literary crush?
Don't make me choose just one! First, JD Salinger, Philip Roth, Erica Jong, for honesty and voice. Later, John Cheever for beauty of his writing, Carson McCullers for characterization.
What are you currently reading?
How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?
The story I work on is the one that says something I need to say, or helps me figure out what I know I want to say. What draws me emotionally to the page is what I want to continue to write.
Where do you find inspiration?
Any form of art that does something new, that makes me see the world in a new way, that makes me hold my breath.
What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?
My husband Robert Anthony Siegel, also a writer, says, "Just keep going!" It really is the best advice. You can't write anything if you stop.
What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?
The Art of Subtext by Charles Baxter is terrific in that it really illuminates what subtext is, an important strategy for creating resonant stories.
Learn More About Working with Karen:
You can learn more about Karen's upcoming craft seminars on building interiority and sign up now!
Prepare to leave each class equipped with a rich toolkit of techniques that will transform how you convey interiority in your work. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from a master storyteller and take your craft to new heights!
Instructor Karen E. Bender is the author of two collections; Refund, which was a Finalist for the National Book Award, shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Story Prize, and Longlisted for the Story prize, and The New Order, which was Longlisted for the Story prize. A new collection is forthcoming. Her novels are Like Normal People and A Town of Empty Rooms. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Ploughshares, Zoetrope, The Yale Review, The Harvard Review, Story, Guernica, and others, have been reprinted in Best American Short Stories and Best American Mystery stories and won three Pushcart prizes. Her work has been read at the Selected Shorts program at Symphony Space and on Levar Burton Reads, She has taught for many highly regarded MFA programs, including the University of Iowa, Hollins University, and Warren Wilson College and currently teaches for the MFA Programs at SUNY Stony Brook and Alma College. Visit her website here.