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Meet the Teaching Artist: Leveraging Concision in Fiction Writing with Jon Roemer

by Writing Workshops Staff

6 months ago

Meet the Teaching Artist: Leveraging Concision in Fiction Writing with Jon Roemer

by Writing Workshops Staff

6 months ago

Introducing our newest Zoom seminar at The Better Cut: Leveraging Concision in Fiction Writing led by the esteemed writer, editor, and instructor Jon Roemer. With a wealth of experience as the Senior Editor/Publisher of Outpost19 Books and as the author of the acclaimed novel Five Windows, Jon brings a unique blend of editorial insight and creative expertise to the table. His seminar promises to dive deep into the power of concise writing, challenging participants to explore the nuances of brevity and impact in their fiction.

In this dynamic 3-hour session, participants will embark on a journey through the art of concision. Through engaging exercises and interactive discussions, students will dissect passages from literary giants like Marcel Proust and Henry James, witnessing firsthand the transformative effects of concise revisions. But the seminar doesn't stop there; Jon will also provide invaluable feedback on participants' own work, helping them navigate the delicate balance between precision and prose.

What can students expect to take away from "The Better Cut"? Besides honing their ability to write more concisely, participants will gain crucial insights into their own writing style, learning how to wield the tools of craft to refine their narratives and overcome creative obstacles. Whether you're a seasoned writer seeking fresh perspectives or a curious beginner eager to explore the art of fiction, Jon Roemer's seminar offers a rich opportunity for growth and inspiration. Join us as we embark on a journey towards sharper, more impactful storytelling.

Hi, Jon. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

I'm an editor and author based in San Francisco. For the past ten years, I've run Outpost19, an indie publisher of award-winning fiction and nonfiction books. I've also published a novel, Five Windows, and have another making the rounds. I've always been interested in reading widely, and because of the way I'm wired, I genuinely enjoy thinking and learning about how words and stories work. I also like thinking about why my dog does what he does.

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? Or is this just your jam and you love it?

The decision to write concisely carries more weight than most folks maybe think. When you're paring things down, you can can produce either a crowd-pleasing shortcut or a lot of density. And sometimes both, which can be exciting. But whatever the results, it's a rhetorical move we can use to expose our own preferences -- forcing a revision that can reveal choices we may not always be aware of. It's like adding bright lipstick on the Mona Lisa, then taking a step back to say, "Maybe, just maybe." Or "God no. Stop. Please stop."

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?

We're first going to look at some famously long-winded writing and see what it looks like when we force a different aesthetic rule on it -- in this case, it's concision. Just a couple brief passages from Proust and James. (Nothing too heavy.) We'll look at how concision radically alters/destroys their work. That's good, clean fun. But then we'll turn the tables and look at two currently popular writers, Emma Cline and Gwendoline Riley. They're not even especially known for concision, but that's part of the point: they're examples of how concision is used so commonly and so popularly today. I'll share a couple of revisions of their work -- just brief passages -- that are perfectly reasonable but not as concise as theirs, and we can see the choices they've made. Then we'll look at your work and talk about ways to challenge choices you may not even be aware of.

What was your first literary crush?

The World According to Garp by John Irving (that novella in the middle of it...!).

What are you currently reading?

Housemates by Emma Copley Eisenberg, All Friends Are Necessary by Tomas Moniz, Blackouts by Justin Torres.

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?

When a first idea connects with a second and then more seem to follow. If I can feel a cascade, I try to stay with it and then later commit when I have a sense of an ending.

Where do you find inspiration?

In great writing.

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?

At one early seminar, I was told to write imitations. Mine were terrible. They were so bad, and I was so young, the experience was devastating. So ever since, I've worked hard to understand why other people appreciate specific work but also to pinpoint what delights me personally. Grasping the conventional wisdom about this craft is important, but recognizing what sparks me has been enormously gratifying.

What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?

I don't usually recommend books on writing. But I do pass along a classic on editing, The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner.

Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?

High-energy, Passionate. Upbeat. Positive. Excited to geek out.

Learn more about working with Jon:

You can sign up for Jon's seminar, The Better Cut: Leveraging Concision in Fiction Writing, and sign up now!

Instructor Jon Roemer has served as Senior Editor/Publisher of Outpost19 Books since 2013, an award-winning publisher of fiction and nonfiction based in San Francisco. He is also the author of the novel Five Windows (Dzanc), hailed by BuzzFeed, Alta, The Brooklyn Rail, Kirkus, and others. His writing has appeared at StatoRec, The Millions, 3AM Magazine, The Writer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. He studied literature and fiction writing at Northwestern University.

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