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Meet the Teaching Artist: Putting it All Together with Ethan Joella

by Writing Workshops Staff

A year ago

Meet the Teaching Artist: Putting it All Together with Ethan Joella

by Writing Workshops Staff

A year ago

We are thrilled to introduce you to an incredible teaching artist and critically acclaimed novelist, Ethan Joella. His new course at is called Putting It All Together: The Elements of Great Fiction 5-Week Generative Class. This class is an absolute gem, perfect for writers of all levels. You'll dive into the world of fiction through short works by renowned authors like Claire Keegan, Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Diaz, and Lauren Groff.

But here's the best part: Ethan will guide you through low-stakes exercises each week, helping you explore character, setting, dialogue, and point of view. You'll receive invaluable feedback from him, shaping your skills as you go. By the end of the course, you'll not only have connected with contemporary fiction writers but also have a polished, cohesive work of short fiction that reflects your growth. Trust me, this is an opportunity you don't want to miss!

Hi, Ethan. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

I'm Ethan Joella, a writer, dad, and professor. I have been writing since I was in first grade and teaching for over twenty years. I have published two chapbooks of poetry and two novels: A LITTLE HOPE, which was a Read With Jenna Bonus Pick, and A QUIET LIFE, a December 2022 Indie Next Pick. My next novel, THE SAME BRIGHT STARS, comes out in Summer 2024. (Editor's note: you can check out all of Ethan's books here). 

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?

I often get asked by my students, what makes a short story? And I found myself wondering the same things beyond the textbook definitions. So I created this class to start examining the different puzzle pieces of a short story. I've taught it in several different formats and I've really enjoyed the discovery process. We should never think of fiction as formulaic, of course, but when we separate the elements of fiction--plot, character, dialogue, beginnings, endings, and the essential surprise--it often helps us get to a comprehensible whole idea of a short work of fiction.

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 Putting It All Together: The Elements of Great Fiction, you'll be assembling a short story piece by piece over five weeks. Each week, you'll have an example story to read as well as a short exercise to work on: beginnings, setting, dialogue, and so on. By the final week, you'll be using these various exercises to put together a whole story. You'll receive detailed feedback from me each week and on your final submission. It is a fun class, and all levels of writers are welcome!

What was your first literary crush?

That is so hard to answer as there are so many, but I think if we're really talking firsts, I'd go with Beverly Cleary. I remember SOCKS was the first book I read on my own, and she just painted such an interesting world of characters for me. I returned to her books over and over as a kid, and she never failed at grabbing my interest.

What are you currently reading?

I'm reading and loving WATCH US SHINE by Marisa de los Santos and WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson.

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?

I used to write everything down that felt important in my writer's notebook, but I don't do this anymore. Now my feeling is that you should write about the big things you can't forget, the ones that stay with you and keep giving you ideas. For example, my novel A QUIET LIFE started from hearing an older man say to his group of friends on the boardwalk that he was making his first trip without his wife, and I couldn't stop thinking about that and knew it would be in my next novel. I actually wrote an article for LitHub about where writers get ideas, which you can read here.

Where do you find inspiration?

Being out and about is where I find inspiration--walking, sitting at a restaurant, being at the beach. I'm always eavesdropping and taking in what I see as I'm out, looking for small moments that reveal something about character. I'm also constantly trying to learn new names of things: plants, food, job titles, cocktails, machine parts, tools. I think we are always out collecting as writers.

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?

Write toward that moment when your characters surprise you. That’s what you want, and that’s when the characters are so real that readers will want to follow them—the whole Robert Frost "no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader" thing.

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

There are so many, but I love WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg. She has so many brief and very useful chapters with catchy titles, and I almost always use it in an introduction to creative writing class. I think it definitely helps writers develop the necessary creative focus.

You can learn more about Ethan's upcoming Putting It All Together: The Elements of Great Fiction 5-Week Generative Class and sign up now.

 Instructor Ethan Joella teaches English and psychology at the University of Delaware. A fiction writer and poet, he is the author of A Little Hope, which was a Read with Jenna Bonus Selection and A Quiet Life. He lives in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. 

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