*This post was originally published on Theodora’s website.
By Theodora Goss
I want to write a couple more posts about my experience at the Stonecoast residency this winter. As you know if you read my last post, Stonecoast is a low-residency MFA Program in which I teach, which means that I go up to Maine for residencies in the winter and summer, and then mentor students during the spring and fall semesters. This past residency, I led an elective workshop on writing fantasy. Most of the workshop was spent critiquing the stories students had submitted. But we also talked about the particular challenges of writing fantasy. The first day we talked about setting, then characters, then plot, then style. I thought I would talk for a bit here about creating setting in fantasy fiction, because it presents problems that realistic writers don’t have to deal with.
Basically, when you’re writing fantasy, you may be setting your story in a world that doesn’t exist. It can be much easier for a realistic writer, because he or she will have points of reference for the reader. “I walked through Central Park” immediately conveys an image to most readers (who have been in Central Park, or more likely seen it in movies or on television). “I walked through the gardens of the temple of Ashera” tells the reader exactly nothing. It conveys absolutely no visual image, except perhaps a green horizontal thing beside a gray vertical thing. So as a fantasy writer, you often have to work harder.
Last winter, we gave our readers a window into the Stonecoast residency with a photo essay that sought to describe the experience via images. Now that the 2013 summer residency has come to a close, we’d like to do the same for our 10 memorable days together in Maine. Enjoy!
Faculty members Boman Desai, Aaron Hamburger, and Elizabeth Searle help make up the close-knit community of Stonecoast mentors and students.
Stonecoast faculty member Cait Johnson leads a discussion in the Stone House’s Harraseeket Hall.
Stonecoast students participate in workshop discussion outside the Stone House.
Mentor Suzanne Strempek Shea, a long-time member of the Stonecoast community, is adored by her students!
Stonecoast Artistic Director Annie Finch and faculty member Alexandra Oliver participate in a panel discussion with guest faculty Stephen Motika and Charles Altieri.
Stonecoast faculty member Breena Clarke offers her insight during one of the many lectures and presentations offered during the 10-day summer residency.
Stonecoast faculty Elizabeth Searle leads a workshop discussion in the Stone House library.
Guest faculty Nicholson Baker reads from his work at one of the evening readings; readings by faculty and guest faculty are open to the public during each residency.
Stonecoast faculty members relax and enjoy one another’s company outside the Stone House.
Stonecoast faculty member David Mura lectures during the panel, “What We Talk About When We Talk about Race.” Faculty members Boman Desai, Alexs Pate, and alumna Helen Peppe also participated on the panel.
Stonecoast student Karen Bovenmyer gives a graduate presentation on teaching writing in community settings.
During the summer residency, students enjoy the picturesque landscape surrounding the Stone House.
Stonecoast faculty and graduating students gather together for a group photo prior to the commencement ceremony.
photos courtesy of Helen Peppe www.helenpeppephotography.com
The unique experience of attending a writer’s residency, despite being devoted to the written word, can, at times, be hard to describe. Let us show you the essence of a Stonecoast residency with photos from the 2013 winter residency, going on now through January 14th.
Here, faculty member Suzanne Strempek Shea lectures on the art of pitching nonfiction projects.