Posts Tagged ‘Laura Ellen Scott’


Marvelous Fiction Monday?

February 1, 2010

No interview this morning, but how about a great piece of fiction instead? “Bog Redaction” by Laura Ellen Scott was published recently by Wigleaf, a cool online journal of very short fiction. This one’s worth reading twice — heck, even three or four times. Enjoy! (And in case you missed my interview with Scott….)

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Laura Ellen Scott: New Views On Short Fiction

March 4, 2009


Laura Ellen Scott has had a flurry of fiction publications recently — a notably large number of them online: “From Laura’s Pocket Guidebook to the Americas: Belize City and Beyond” in Hobart; “Exoskeletal” in Behind the Wainscot; “Felly Stories” in Storyglossia; “Do you know what it means to miss,” an excerpt from her novel-in-progress, in Juked; “Render, or to transmit to another” in elmmae; and “Wish Tank” in the latest issue of Barrelhouse, this latter the only one you’ll have to buy at the newsstand. It’s an impressive array of stories, and you can add them to a resume that already includes journals and online magazines as diverse as Ploughshares, Mississippi Review (and another one there), Hayden’s Ferry Review, Identity Theory, Plots with Guns, Ink Pot Special Edition Short Story & Flash Fiction, and Eclectica, among others.

A graduate of George Mason University’s MFA program in creative writing, Scott teaches now fiction writing at the undergraduate level at  Mason, and her work as both student and teacher, both reader and writer, has all come together to provide her some refreshing perspectives on the current state — and the future — of the short story.

Scott spoke recently on fiction and new media at a seminar sponsored by American Independent Writers and by Mason’s MFA program, and she’ll also be speaking on flash fiction at the “Conversations and Connections” conference in D.C. in early April

If you can’t catch her in person, she also blogs regularly on writing at Probably Just A Story. I’m a regular reader of that blog, and I’m glad to have her for an interview here as well. 

Art Taylor: You’ve published stories both in print and online, but you’ve recently talked about preference for online fiction. What’s the root of that preference, both as a writer and as a reader?

Laura Ellen Scott: I’ve never been a fan of any print literary journal in that “I can’t wait for the next issue of X-Quarterly” sense, and I’m embarrassed to say that I published stories in places like Hayden’s Ferry Review and Ploughshares because that was the only path I understood. Ironically, Ploughshares introduced me to new possibilities when it put its archives online, in essence re-publishing my work for a much bigger audience. At which point I realized that my inability to surrender to short fiction in print journals had more to do with my feelings about literary commodity and access than it did with quality. To put it bluntly, print literary journals make me feel bad because their contents are available to very few readers. Whereas I know online fiction is read, and more importantly, read for pleasure. I hear from my readers fairly often, and as a reader myself, I delight in discovering new stories, sharing them widely, and interacting with writers—something not easily done in print.

I’m part of a living, freewheeling discussion about art. Plus, it’s easy to send links to my mom.

At a recent Fiction Seminar hosted by AIW and Mason’s MFA program, you discussed how the rise of online publishing can be connected to the changes in the idea of the short story — the move from a certain trend of storytelling that prevailed for a couple of decades to something… else. How would you characterize that “something else”? Is it just shorter — just more “flash” oriented, for example — or somehow more substantially different?

So many writers trained in the ’80s and ’90s became excellent technicians who produced rock solid stories that worked but contained few surprises. A lot of online fiction is all about surprise and grabbing attention — it can be very immaturely pitched, but I see that as a correction to an excess of maturity in academy fostered writing. 

Some of the strategies are obvious. Online stories tend to feature weird titles, provocative voices, hook-y first lines and paragraphs. The emphasis is on facilitating quick entry and capture, just as in commercial genre fiction. Flash, in particular, dispenses with or collapses points on the dramatic arc but retains Poe’s unities, and is typically brave with language and content. The Bold Idea or The Big Gesture has a comfy place in a brief fiction, but so does the nonsensical manipulation of epiphany. I’m impressed by the seeming equal ratio of sentimental to surreal stories, and in fact I see the “domestic” narrative as being reinvigorated by flash. “Soap” by Katrina Denza is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read.

Are some authors using these online publications as a springboard of some kind toward book-length projects in more traditional media? 

Definitely, and it is made a easier by the fact that so many online lit zines are in the small press business as well. That’s why I like to say that the online indie publishers are opening up fiction the way beat publishers opened up poetry in the ’60s. Shane Jones and Nick Antosca are writers to watch. They published short work everywhere and created dedicated followings before their novels came out. Their writing is so distinctive — Shane writes the most startling love stories, and Nick is reinventing the gothic — that their readers hunger to see those imaginations let loose in the long form. The majority of books coming out of this process are collections though. I’m not sure about that strategy, especially if stories in a collection have already appeared online. A friend of mine who has a collection out complained to me that everyone tells him how pretty the book is because no one has bothered to read it. But it is essentially a greatest hits package, and his biggest fans are already familiar with the contents.

Do you yourself have a longer project in the works?

I have completed a West Virginia based novel called Unattended, which is sort of a fish-out-of-water black comedy. I’m finishing a draft of a magical realist novel set in New Orleans that I’m calling Social Aid & Pleasure. It’s a terrible time to be trying to sell novels, I know. I took a ghost story out of the WV novel, and it will show up in the Paycock Press anthology Gravity Dancers: Even More Fiction by Washington Area Women, due out this spring. That’s a print venue to which I was invited to submit. I extracted two stories from the Louisiana novel, one of which appeared in Juked, which is online. The other appears in the latest issue of Barrelhouse as part of their “The Future” issue, and that’s a print thing as well, but only accidentally. I thought I was submitting to their online issue. The long gaps between clusters of short story publications are years when I was working on novel projects. 

As a professor at Mason, how much do you encourage your students to think about new forms of fiction? or do you teach “traditional” nuts and bolts first?

I mix it up, but for the last two classes I’ve taught, I started with a flash unit, just to get a taste of everyone’s imagination out there, and that has been really successful. Then we move into more conventional forms, but nuts and bolts are part of every discussion. For readings, I assign Poe, O’Connor, and the Wigleaf Top 50, all of which is accessible online. is an extremely influential site for very brief fiction, founded and edited by Scott Garson.

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Jeffery Deaver & Marita Golden Headline Day-Long Fiction Seminar at George Mason University

February 11, 2009
Jeffrey Deaver

Jeffery Deaver

Bestselling crime novelist Jeffery Deaver will kick-off a day-long fiction writing seminar at George Mason University on Saturday, February 28. The event also features a keynote address by novelist Marita Golden, and the entire day’s events are co-presented by the MFA program at Mason and by American Independent Writers.

It’s a real pleasure to see a mystery angle to the program and also great to see a number of friends and colleagues on the various panels. An early morning session on “Literary Fiction Versus Genre Fiction” features John Gilstrap, James Grady, Donna Andrews, and fellow Mason professor Alan Cheuse, and a second session on “Novelists Who Write Reviews and Criticism” is headlined by Louis Bayard and also features Preservation magazine editor Sudip Bose. (I’m pleased to be serving on that panel myself, though admittedly my own novel can still be read only by someone snooping around the large sheaf of papers on my desk right now).

Marita Golden

Marita Golden

After Golden’s keynote address, afternoon sessions feature more friendly faces, including Mark Athitakis, who writes one of the best blogs in the business, and Laura Ellen Scott, who is currently tearing up the online short story market with her eclectic and highly enjoyable fiction; both authors, as well as Reb Livingston and Bernadette Geyer appear on the panel “New Media and Publishing Creative Writing.” Dallas Hudgens, interviewed recently on my site here, joins Alex MacLennan for the final session, on writing and publishing “Second Novels.”

The complete schedule and registration information is below.

Fiction Writing Seminar

Saturday, February 28, 2009
George Mason University, Johnson Center, Campus Cinema

Sponsored jointly by George Mason University
Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program
and American Independent Writers

8:00 a.m. Registration opens and continental breakfast available

8:45 a.m. Opening Remarks: William Miller, GMU and John Curry, AIW

John Curry is the co-author of the manuscript: WALKING WITH GIRAFFES: THE MAKING OF A LEADER, a memoir about Dr. Hubert Glover former CEO at PricewaterhouseCoopers and chair of the accounting department at Howard University. Curry’s job history includes writing and producing print and documentary projects at the US Information Agency, Voice of America, US News and World Report Books, CBS and CNN. He lectures at the University of Maryland and for more than a decade has taught literature and writing courses at USC, Occidental College, and Santa Monica College. Curry is the author of the novella THE MEDINA WALL, awarded honorable mention in Paris Belletric’s “The Archer Prize,” a Los Angeles literary competition. The writer of op-eds and essays, his short fiction has appeared in Paperplates, Short Stories Bimonthly and Entre Nous, and other publications. John has studied with authors John Rechy (recipient of PEN USA West’s Lifetime Achievement Award), Gay Talese, Mary Yukari Waters and James Regan.

9:00-9:15 a.m. Plenary speech

A former journalist, folksinger and attorney, Jeffery Deaver is an international number-one bestselling author. His novels have appeared on a number of bestseller lists around the world, including The New York Times, The Times of London, Italy’s Corriere della Serra, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Los Angeles Times. His books are sold in 150 countries and translated into 25 languages. The author of 25 novels, two collections of short stories and a nonfiction law book, he’s been awarded the Steel Dagger and Short Story Dagger from the British Crime Writers’ Association, is a three-time recipient of the Ellery Queen Reader’s Award for Best Short Story of the Year and is a winner of the British Thumping Good Read Award. THE COLD MOON was recently named the Book of the Year by the Mystery Writers Association of Japan, as well as by Kono Mystery Wa Sugoi magazine. In addition, the Japanese Adventure Fiction Association awarded the book their annual Grand Prix award. He’s been nominated for six Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America, an Anthony Award and a Gumshoe Award. He was recently shortlisted for the ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for Best International Author. His book A MAIDEN’S GRAVE was made into an HBO movie starring James Garner and Marlee Matlin, and his novel THE BONE COLLECTOR was a feature release from Universal Pictures, starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. His most recent books are THE BODIES LEFT BEHIND, THE BROKEN WINDOW, THE SLEEPING DOLL and MORE TWISTED: COLLECTED STORIES, VOLUME II. And, yes, the rumors are true, he did appear as a corrupt reporter on his favorite soap opera, As the World Turns. Deaver is presently alternating his series featuring Kathryn Dance, who will make her appearances in odd number years, with that starring Lincoln Rhyme, who will appear in even. He was born outside of Chicago and has a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from Fordham University. Readers can visit his website at

9:15-10:30 a.m. Literary Fiction versus Genre Fiction

Literary Snobs and Commercial Sellouts—We’ve all seen it happen: Literary writers bemoan the “trash” that makes the bestseller lists, while writers of popular fiction complain that they don’t get the proper respect from critics and the literary establishment. Our panel of supremely talented authors from both camps–literary and genre–will put faces on the abstractions and openly discuss the truths, truisms and falsehoods that underlie these age old accusations. Audience members will be invited to join in as the fifth panelist.

Moderator John Gilstrap is the New York Times bestselling author of six thrillers, the latest of which, NO MERCY will be released on June 27. His previous books include SIX MINUTES TO FREEDOM, SCOTT FREE, EVEN STEVEN, AT ALL COSTS, and NATHAN’S RUN, four of which were selections of the Literary Guild. His novels have been translated into more than 20 languages. John has also adapted four bestselling novels for the big screen: RED DRAGON (uncredited) from the Thomas Harris novel, for Dino DeLaurentiis Productions, WORD OF HONOR (from the Nelson DeMille novel, for Dino DeLaurentiis Productions); YOUNG MEN AND FIRE (from the Norman Maclean book, for Baltimore/Spring Creek Pictures/Warner Brothers); and NATHAN’S RUN (from his own novel, also for Warner Brothers). Last month, he signed on to write the screenplay for SIX MINUTES TO FREEDOM for Sesso Entertainment. A former firefighter and EMT, John holds a master’s degree in safety engineering from the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree in history from the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Please visit

Donna Andrews is the author of 14 mystery books, including the New York Times bestselling SIX GEESE A-SLAYING. Ten of her books, from St. Martins/Minotaur, are humorous mysteries featuring Virginia ornamental blacksmith Meg Langslow, and four, from Berkley Prime Crime, feature Turing Hopper, an artificial intelligence who lives in a corporate computer system. Andrews’s first book, MURDER WITH PEACOCKS, won the Agatha, Anthony, Barry, and Romantic Times awards for best first mystery as well as the Lefty Award for the funniest mystery of 1999. She also won the Agatha award for best novel with YOU’VE GOT MURDER, a second Lefty award in 2006 for WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARROTS, and the Agatha award for best short story in 2008 with “A Rat’s Tail,” from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. An alumna of the University of Virginia, Andrews worked for many years in corporate communications before leaving her day job to write full time in 2001. She is the current treasurer of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, a past president of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, a member of the board of directors of Malice Domestic (an annual Washington area conference honoring the traditional mystery), and a member of the Private Investigators and Security Association. She lives in Reston, Virginia.

Alan Cheuse is the author of the novels THE BOHEMIANS (1982), THE GRANDMOTHER’S CLUB (1986), THE LIGHT POSSESSED (1990), and TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING (2008) plus three collections of short fiction, CANDACE AND OTHER STORIES (1980), THE TENNESSEE WALTZ (1991), and LOST AND OLD RIVERS (1998), and a pair of novellas THE FIRES (2007), as well as the nonfiction work FALL OUT OF HEAVEN: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL JOURNEY (1987). As a book commentator, Cheuse is a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” He has edited with Caroline Marshall a volume of short stories, LISTENING TO OURSELVES (1994), and with Nicholas Delbanco, TALKING HORSE: BERNARD MALAMUD ON LIFE AND WORK (1997). He is also the editor of SEEING OURSELVES, GREAT AMERICAN SHORT FICTION (2007) and co-editor, with Lisa Alvarez, of WRITERS WORKSHOP IN A BOOK: THE SQUAW VALLEY COMMUNITY OF WRITERS ON THE ART OF FICTION (2007). His short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, Another Chicago Magazine, and elsewhere. A TRANCE AFTER BREAKFAST, his collected travel essays, will appear this summer.

James Grady, author of SIX DAYS OF THE CONDOR that was adapted into a Robert Redford film, received Italy’s 2004 Raymond Chandler Medal and France’s 2001 Grand Prix Du Roman Noir for his work that spans more than a dozen novels. One of his short stories received an Edgar nomination from the Mystery Writers of America and was bought by FX television. He’s sold feature scripts, created a police drama for CBS TV and worked on-staff for TV icon Stephen Cannell. Grady’s latest novel MAD DOGS has been optioned for a Hollywood feature film and won Japan’s 2008 World Baka-Misu award. In 2008, London’s Daily Telegraph named Grady as one of “50 crime writers to read before you die.” He’s lived in the D.C. area since Nixon, and is married to writer Bonnie Goldstein (who has also been an ABC producer, a U.S. Senate aide, and a private investigator), and is the father of two children, including Academy Award nominated documentary maker Rachel Grady.

10:30-10:45 p.m. Break

10:45-12:00 p.m. Novelists who write Reviews and Criticism

Moderator Nandini Lal is currently working on short stories, poems and a novel set in India. She is a book critic with 20 years’ experience. Her review was cited in the Washington Post Book World’s top books for the year 2008. Her poem was selected for a 600-foot wide DC Peace Mural (2008-2009) by artists and activists. She has been on the board of World Bank’s family publication (WBFN), editorial consultant, copywriter with TSA McCann Ericson, columnist, and film critic. She is a regular contributor to newspapers, magazines and websites of the Indian subcontinent. She moved to the U.S. in 2006.

With the 2008 release of THE BLACK TOWER (Morrow), the critically acclaimed author Louis Bayard now occupies, in the words of one reviewer, “the upper reaches of the historical-thriller league.” Bayard’s previous books were THE PALE BLUE EYE (HarperCollins), a national bestseller nominated for both the Edgar and Dagger awards, and MR. TIMOTHY (HarperCollins), a New York Times Notable Book and one of People magazine’s 10 best books of 2003. Louis’ novels have been translated into 10 languages, including Spanish, French, Portuguese, German and Russian, and he was recently selected as one of Out magazine’s top 100 cultural figures. In addition to working as a staff writer and book reviewer for Salon magazine, Louis has published articles and reviews in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Ms., and Preservation. His other novels include FOOL’S ERRAND and ENDANGERED SPECIES (Alyson). He is also a contributor to the anthologies THE WORST NOEL and MAYBE BABY (HarperCollins) and 101 DAMNATIONS (St. Martin’s).

Sudip Bose is senior editor of Preservation magazine, where he has edited the work of such writers as J.M. Coetzee, Ann Beattie, Tim Gautreaux, Phillip Lopate, Anita Desai, Frederick Busch, Madison Smartt Bell, and numerous others. He was born in Carbondale, Illinois, in 1973, attended Cornell University, and has lived in the Washington, D.C., area since 1996. His essays and book reviews have appeared in The American Scholar, the Washington Post Book World, Smithsonian, the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The New Criterion, and Salon, among other places. He lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his wife and son.

Art Taylor is an assistant professor of English at George Mason University and one of the organizers of Mason’s annual Fall for the Book Festival. Since 2001, he has been a contributing editor at Metro Magazine in Raleigh, N.C., writing a monthly literary column. Since 2005, he has been a semi-regular reviewer for the Washington Post Book World, with a focus on mysteries and thrillers. Other literary essays/reviews have appeared in publications including The Armchair Detective, Mississippi Quarterly, Mystery Scene, North Carolina Literary Review, and The Oxford American, among other publications. His short stories have been published in several national magazines, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, North American Review, and The Rambler, and in various regional journals/newspapers — among them Cities and Roads, Lifeboat, The Lone Wolf Review, Wellspring, and the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer’s “Sunday Reader” section (the latter twice). He is currently completing his first novel, FIRST LOVES, SECOND THOUGHTS.

12:00-1:00 p.m. Lunch—brown bag, nearby restaurants, or local fast food.

1:00-1:30 p.m. Keynote speech

Marita Golden has distinguished herself as a novelist, nonfiction writer, teacher of writing and literary institution. Her books, many of which have been used widely in African American, Women’s Studies and Literature Courses include the memoirs MIGRATIONS OF THE HEART, SAVING OUR SONS, and DON’T PLAY IN THE SUN: ONE WOMAN’S JOURNEY THROUGH THE COLOR COMPLEX as well as the novels LONG DISTANCE LIFE, THE EDGE OF HEAVEN, and most recently AFTER, which won the Fiction Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. She is the editor of the anthology IT’S ALL LOVE “BLACK WRITERS ON SOUL MATES FAMILY AND FRIENDS”. As a literary institution builder she co-founded both the African American Writers Guild and the Hurston/Wright Foundation. She serves as President Emeritus of the Hurston/Wright Foundation. As a teacher of writing she has held positions at George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University and currently serves as Writer in Residence at the University of the District of Columbia. Among the awards Golden has received in recognition of her writing career and her work as a literary activist are the Distinguished Service Award from the Authors Guild and the Writers for Writers Award presented by Barnes and Noble. She has spoken at colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad and has been a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show as well as ABC’s Primetime Live. Marita Golden lives with her husband in Mitchellville, Maryland.

1:30-2:45 p.m. New Media and Publishing Creative Writing

Literary publishing and marketing are currently going through a rapid transformation with rise of New Media and the reduction/evaporation of traditional media outlets. How do writers find their ways among these changes? Panelists will discuss new models for publishing, book reviewing and promotion (including social networking), as well how short fiction is evolving in response to a new generation of readers on the screen. This panel will probe assumptions of fiction being a commodity and the conventions associated with that.

Moderator Reb Livingston is the editor of the online poetry magazine No Tell Motel ( and publisher of No Tell Books ( ). She’s the author of YOUR TEN FAVORITE WORDS (Coconut Books) and co-editor of THE BEDSIDE GUIDE TO NO TELL MOTEL anthology series. Her poems have appeared in THE BEST AMERICAN POETRY 2006, The American Poetry Review, Coconut and other publications. During the ’90’s she worked as a programming manager and producer for America Online. She blogs at

Mark Athitakis is a D.C.-based writer and editor who has spent more than a dozen years contributing news, features, and reviews to daily newspapers, alternative weeklies, and magazines. His book reviews and author interviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, the Chicago Sun-Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, among other publications. He maintains a blog, American Fiction Notes (, that features regular commentary on books and trends in the publishing world, as well as a schedule of upcoming literary events in the greater Washington, D.C. area. He can be reached via e-mail at or via Twitter (

Bernadette Geyer is a freelance writer and poet in the DC area. She has founded and manages five web sites and three blogs. Her articles, book reviews and poems have appeared in Go World Travel Magazine, Freelance Writer’s Report, Sustainable Development International, 32 Poems, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and elsewhere. She publishes a monthly electronic newsletter on energy issues and tracks energy funding opportunities for one of her blogs.

Laura Ellen Scott teaches fiction writing in the undergraduate program at George Mason University. Her fiction can be found in print and online in Ploughshares, Mississippi Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Identity Theory, Hobart, Plots with Guns, Ink Pot Special Edition Short Story & Flash Fiction, Eclectica’s Best Fiction, Storyglossia, elimae, Behind the Wainscot, and Juked. Stories are forthcoming in Barrelhouse and the Paycock Press anthology GRAVITE DANCERS: MORE FICTION BY WASHINGTON AREA WOMEN. Her writing blog is

2:45-3:00 p.m. Break

3:00-4:15 p.m. Second Novels

Dallas Hudgens is the author of the novels DRIVE LIKE HELL (Scribner, 2005) and SEASON OF GENE (Scribner, 2007). He holds an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University.

Alex MacLennan’s debut novel, THE ZOOKEEPER, was published by Alyson Books in May 2006, and was a finalist for a number of Debut Fiction awards. A short story, “Touching the Pole,” was featured in STRESS CITY: A BIG BOOK OF FICTION BY 51 D.C. GUYS in 2008. Alex holds an MFA in Creative Writing from American University, and received a Larry Neal Writer’s Award in 2004. He was named a Writer to Watch by Washingtonian magazine in 2006, and currently writes for Conservation International, a global environmental group.

Moderator and other panelists to be announced


Register online at, by telephone to (202) 775-5150 or by FAX to (202) 775-5810.

AIW Members $119, Non-members $189, and Students $69.

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