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Meet the Teaching Artist: Write Your Novel in 6 Weeks with Dana De Greff

by Writing Workshops Staff

5 months ago

Meet the Teaching Artist: Write Your Novel in 6 Weeks with Dana De Greff

by Writing Workshops Staff

5 months ago

Are you ready to embark on an exciting journey to write your novel? We are thrilled to introduce you to Dana De Greff, a seasoned author and creative writing instructor, who is here to guide you through a transformative 6-week Zoom workshop titled Write Your Novel in 6 Weeks.

Dana's impressive credentials include teaching Creative Writing at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Miami. With her vast experience, she understands the challenges writers face when it comes to tackling that daunting first novel. Dana's approach is not just about imparting knowledge; it's about nurturing your creative spirit and helping you lead a more wondrous life through writing.

In this intensive and generative workshop, you'll dive deep into the essential elements of novel writing. From outlining your project and crafting compelling characters to exploring the art of setting, conflict, and backstory, Dana will provide you with the tools and techniques needed to bring your novel to life. With a supportive mentorship and a vibrant writing community, this class is designed for writers of all levels, whether you're starting from scratch or looking to refine your skills.

By the end of this course, you'll not only have a clearer understanding of the novel-writing process but also a partial or even a full rough draft ready to take the next steps toward publication. Don't miss this opportunity to embark on your novel-writing journey with Dana De Greff's guidance and expertise.

Hi, Dana. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

I was born in Miami, but have lived in West Africa, Spain, and Patagonia, Chile. I have an MFA in Fiction from the University of Miami and have taught Creative Writing for 8+ years at the University of Miami, The Loft Literary Center, and Writing Workshops, among others. I’m also a writing coach and editor of emerging and established writers, and the Content Editor at Ooni.

In 2018, I published Alterations (winner of the 2018 Rane Arroyo Chapbook Series), and Words and Wonder: A Guide to Becoming a Creative Writer, in 2022. I’ve been accepted or awarded scholarships from Tin House, The Key West Literary Seminar, the Lemon Tree House Residency, and Hedgebrook, and my work appears in Cosmonauts Avenue, PANK, and Origins Journal among others. I’m the recipient of a 2021 Pushcart Prize Nomination and was a finalist for the 2021 Key West Literary Seminar's Marianne Russo Award for my novel-in progress, EVERYDAY MYSTICISM.

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?

When I was getting my MFA (Master in Fine Arts) I switched from working on a short story collection to writing a novel. I had no idea what I was doing, and there were no classes or workshops on how to write a novel (or how to critique one) and most of the time I felt very lost. From everything I learned of what to do (and not do), I wanted to create an accessible, informative and fun class that would help other writers figure out how to sustain a world for 50,000 +. Most creative writing classes in school and out in the wide world of writing don’t focus on novel writing (or, at least not in such a way that is for various levels of skill and experience), so this is my way to fill in the gaps!

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?

I created this course in a way that, more or less, matches the novel writing process. We start with setting goals and writing schedules, strategies for accountability, discussions of perfectionism, followed by creating an outline. This serves as the blueprint for the novel and from there we work on characters, setting, conflict, backstory, scene building, and before the course ends, I provide resources for revisions and second drafts, how to write a query letter, finding an agent, and the publishing world.

For me, the best part of novel writing is the first draft because it’s the realm of possibility and play–anything goes and it doesn’t matter if it is ‘good’ or not. That’s what revision is for! Many first-time novel writers (and even seasoned authors) agonize over getting it ‘right’ in the first draft, and for me, that defeats the purpose. Creativity and creative writing is about letting go, making mistakes, and experimenting to get to the true story. We shape, cut, edit, and sharpen later on.

What was your first literary crush?

I have so many...but my pivotal crushes in high school (and to this day) were Toni Morrison, Edwidge Danticat, and Zora Neale Hurston.

What are you currently reading?

I like to toggle between books, and right now I’m reading Maame by Jessica George and Dear Life by Alice Munro.

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?

A lot of writing for me feels like relationships. A lot like when you are in love with someone, or know that they’re ‘right,’ is based on a feeling and is hard to put into words. It’s the same for what I choose to work on; most times, I just know it’s what I want to work on because I feel excited, or intrigued, or a sense of momentum propelling me forward. I could get into the psychological reasons of why I like what I like, but that would take too many pages. I just know that if a story is interesting to me (or a poem, a memoir, whatever) I need to stay with it and see where we can go together.

Where do you find inspiration?

I’m lucky in that I find a lot in this world inspiring: other books (I write in my books, underline favorite phrases and words), music, film, art, podcasts, nature, conversations, observation. I often tell my students that if you don’t know what to write about, then it’s time to look around. Observe the world (and yourself), be curious, and get real nerdy with your research and you’ll never run out of ideas or inspiration.

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 forward in a first draft. In other words, don’t edit. It allowed me to finish work instead of having bits and pieces of writing that I never went back to. I attribute this to Anne Lamott’s “Shity First Drafts” and when I read that essay and that advice, I felt a huge burden being lifted.

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

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my book, Words and Wonder: A Guide to Becoming a Creative Writer, which touches on craft, but also the writing life and which I wrote for (mostly) emerging writers. It's a great companion book as you work through the difficult but exciting world of writing.

I also love Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott for her practical advice and morbid sense of humor, and Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses for his deep and insightful dive into what needs to change about teaching fiction, especially here in the US.

Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?

Open, creative, and lively, with a dash of dad humor.

Learn More About Working with Dana:

Learn more about Dana's upcoming Write Your Novel in 6 Weeks generative Zoom workshop and sing up now!

Instructor Dana De Greff is the author of Alterations and Words and Wonder: A Guide to Becoming a Creative Writer, this class is all about becoming a more creative writer and living a more wondrous life. Dana has taught Creative Writing classes at the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Miami, among others.

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