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Writing

Fall 2017

Where the trouble began

“Fiction is a document of trouble,” says novelist James Thayer ’71. The trouble began for Thayer as a teenager reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula on his father’s wheat farm in Almira.

“The narrator sees the Count leap to a window frame—and then crawl down the exterior of the castle wall like a lizard!” Thayer exclaims. “That scene scared me to death! It was a revelation as to the power of fiction.”

Now, decades later, the Seattle-based author of 14 novels teaches fiction writing through the University of Washington’s continuing education program.

“The main thing that keeps people from writing a novel is that it … » More …

Fall 2017

James Thayer on the craft of the novel

James Thayer reads from The Boxer and the Poet

James Thayer ‘71 reads the first chapter of his romantic comedy, The Boxer and the Poet.

 

 

Tips and Techniques

Thayer started teaching the craft of the novel about ten years ago as a creative writing instructor at the University of Washington. He’s also a regular contributor to Author magazine.

Thayer, a natural storyteller, absorbed his craft through his lifelong voracious reading habit. When he first got the teaching job, he realized he didn’t have enough to say to fill a 90-hour, year-long course. So, as is his wont, he read a bunch of books. … » More …

Kathleen Flenniken
Spring 2014

On the Road

Washington’s Poet Laureate brings poetry to, and discovers it in, each of the state’s 39 counties

Although my parents lived in the same house in Richland, Washington—my hometown—for 50 years, they never stopped being proud, relentless Oregonians. But in 1989 Mother and Dad celebrated Washington’s centenary in a big way. They dreamed up one of those projects that makes sense to retired couples but bemuses their children: visiting and photographing all 39 Washington county courthouses. They were even written up in the Tri-City Herald for achieving their goal, and photographed paging through their album. A family friend rediscovered the newspaper clipping more than twenty years … » More …

Summer 2012

The learned observer

“We should observe first, and think afterwards.”
—The Lancet 19 Oct. 1823

Part of the nature of a writer—but then again, perhaps I speak only for myself—is the constant reimagining of one’s self and context, the repeated immersion in myriad and esoteric subjects, all the while desperately hoping for infinite reincarnations in order to fulfill all the things one would like to understand, experience, and be. On the other hand, being a writer embraces the perfectly paradoxical satisfaction with one’s role as a learned observer.

Given the skeptical writer’s reluctance to rely on reincarnation, the only way to grasp these multitudinous desires and perspectives … » More …

Fall 2003

The first casualty

Vietnam was the last conflict in which reporters could speak and write with prudent freedom.

During one of the nation’s many wars, I wrote of a patrol that came under fire and killed an enemy soldier. Before continuing, the GIs cut off the dead man’s genitals, and forced them into his mouth, leaving also a playing card-Ace of Spades-on his body. The soldiers said that such were enemy superstitions, that they would not cross over a dead man so festooned, thus it was required to keep the other side effectively tethered if the patrol was to complete its mission.

It was a poor excuse for … » More …

Summer 2004

Stories about growing up

Pamela Smith Hill isn’t one to forget her roots.

Born and raised in Missouri, Smith Hill set one of her novels, A Voice from the Border, in the Show-Me state, and another, Ghost Horses, in South Dakota, where she lived and worked for nearly a decade.

And her early training as a newspaper reporter-long ago in Springfield, Missouri-is part of the reason for her success today as a writer of award-winning books and short stories for young women and girls, she says. “As a reporter, I had the chance to listen to people, to the way they talk, and to observe details of their own … » More …

Spring 2008

What I've learned since college: An interview with Johnnetta B. Cole-anthropologist, author, activist

Johnnetta B. Cole launched her career as an educator and activist at Washington State University in 1964. While in Pullman, she taught anthropology, helped found the Black Studies Program, and served as the program’s first director. In 1970 she was named Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year. After leaving Pullman, she held a number of teaching and administrative positions at several East Coast schools. In 1987 she became the first African American woman to be president of Spelman College, the country’s oldest college for African American women. In 1992 Cole landed in the national spotlight as a cluster coordinator on President-Elect Bill Clinton’s transition team … » More …

Winter 2001

Beyond Outcomes

For the first time in the 126-year history of college-level writing programs, a single scholarly book focuses on one university’s writing program.

Beyond Outcomes: Assessment and Instruction Within a University Writing Program tells the story of Washington State University’s Campus Writing Programs. Beyond Outcomes fully describes a set of innovations that have become models for the nation: the University Writing Portfolio, a system of peer-led group writing tutorials at the freshman and the junior levels, and an “expert rating system” that Brian Huot, co-editor of the journal Assessing Writing and a leading expert on writing assessment, has called one of the most promising developments in … » More …