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Meet the Teaching Artist: Toying with the Truth with Shelby Hinte

by Writing Workshops Staff

2 weeks ago


Meet the Teaching Artist: Toying with the Truth with Shelby Hinte

by Writing Workshops Staff

2 weeks ago


We sat down with Shelby Hinte for a conversation about her poplar class, Toying with The Truth: A Generative Nonfiction Workshop. Shelby is an Associate Editor of Write or Die Magazine and an accomplished writer whose work has been published by BOMB and Electric Literature, and she has a debut novel, HOWLING WOMEN, forthcoming in 2025.

In Toying with The Truth, students can expect a transformative class, guided by readings from Melissa Febos to Zadie Smith. With weekly prompts and in-depth discussions, students will not only generate multiple drafts of their own personal writing but also receive constructive feedback to refine their craft. This isn't just a writing class; it's an invitation to experiment, play, and ultimately uncover the most authentic ways to tell one's story, culminating in a polished second draft by the course's end.

Hi, Shelby. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

Hey, I’m Shelby and I am a writer, teacher, and editor living in Northern California. I’m the Associate Editor at Write or Die Magazine where I oversee essays and author interviews. I’ve taught Creative Writing in a lot of places including online, in jails, at probation departments, and in public schools. I’m also an avid runner which I think tracks with my fundamental personality trait being that I like doing anything that requires a significant amount of solitude and suffering with the lure of transcendence somewhere just within reach (supposedly).

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?

I’ve been interested in the idea of truth/fiction for a long time and what it means to get to the truth of something. Years ago I read Mary Karr’s On Memoir where she writes about the absurdity of believing in objective truth. She uses the example of telling stories around the dinner table with family, and in the anecdote she notes that disagreements around the so-called facts usually ensue. She notes that once a writer chooses to tell one detail and not another, the event itself becomes a story, and stories are constructs. As an artist, I find this idea really exciting because it means there are an infinite number of ways to tell the same story, and each iteration drives towards some specific truth—maybe even a revelation. In this class I’m excited to encourage writers to take narrative chances as a means of revealing something to themselves both as writers and as individuals.

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 this class writers can anticipate generating a lot of raw material. Each week we will focus on a specific creative nonfiction form and writers will use that container to write personal stories. We will also workshop student work in class together, but we won’t follow the traditional model where students hand-out 20+ page manuscripts a week in advance and readers write long letters and margin notes. Instead, writers will bring shorter works to the group for workshop. My hope is that this will make space for more writing and more sharing.

What was your first literary crush?

If we’re talking literary crush as in character, then it was probably one of the interchangeable leading male characters in any of the Sarah Dessen novels I devoured as a young teen. If we’re talking about authors, then (embarrassingly?) DFW or Samuel Beckett. Read into that what you will, but in short, I had a thing for guys who thought they were smarter than everyone else and who talked too much.

What are you currently reading?

Appendix Project by Kate Zambreno. I was introduced to Zambreno’s work in early 2023 with To Write as if Already Dead and I have been steadily working my way through her oeuvre.

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 I can’t stop thinking about it. I have a habit of “writing” while running which really just looks like me dictating to my phone as I run very slowly. If an idea has taken hold of me so thoroughly that I find myself shouting sentences into my phone while running down a mountain then I know the idea will sustain my creative energy through to the end (even when it gets tricky).

Where do you find inspiration?

Books, movies, life. It’s all inspiring if you’re paying attention.

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?

I took a class with Caro De Robertis where they used the analogy of clocking into work as a way to think about writing. The example was that if you work in a shop, you clock in and you stay in the shop regardless of whether it’s busy or not. Sometimes the store is full of shoppers. Sometimes no one comes in at all and you spend the day tidying. Sometimes no one comes in until right before you close. Whatever the situation, you stay for your whole shift. I grew up in a working-class family, and for most of my adult life I’ve worked 2-3 jobs at a time, so when I heard this analogy, I had this sort of lightbulb moment. I know how to work. I’ve been clocking into jobs most my life. It suddenly made writing so much less elusive. I do think that writing can be somewhat magical, but I also think it’s a type of labor. It can’t just be about waiting for inspiration to strike. It’s about consistently showing up to work and creating the conditions for inspiration to be put to meaningful use. If you show up and keep working, eventually the muses will show up too.

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

I think Body Work by Melissa Febos is one of the most encouraging craft books I have ever read. It's also different from most other craft books. The writing itself is as instructive as the content.

Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?

The word I see most in my teaching evals is “energetic” and once, when I taught in the jails, a student in my morning class (we met at 7am) said “How are you so alive this early?” If nothing else, I want my energy to be a kind of contagion that gets my students jazzed to write.

Learn more about working with Shelby:

You can learn more about Shelby's upcoming 9-Week Zoom workshop, Toying with The Truth: A Generative Nonfiction Class, and sign up if interested.

 

Shelby Hinte is Associate Editor of Write or Die Magazine, where she edits essays and interviews. Her work has been featured in BOMB, ZYZZYVA, SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart, The Rumpus, Witness, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. Her debut novel, HOWLING WOMEN, is forthcoming from LEFTOVER Books in 2025.

 

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