Pam and Sam

Because it ain't enough to have tremendous poetry and creative nonfiction workshops, in 2011 we'rePamhouston_lg  bringing in two of the most popular fiction teachers in our history: Pam Houston (right) and Sam Ligon. We're also bringing a new–to Centrum!–voice in acclaimed fiction writer Cheryl Strayed.

Formerly a bartender, highway crew member, and river guide, Pam gained international popularity in the early 1990s for short stories about women in relationships that were bad for them and the complexities that ensued in their lives. In addition to collections of short stories, she edited a collection of fiction, nonfiction and poetry called "Women on Hunting", and wrote the text for a book of photographs called "Men Before Ten A.M."

In 2007, Pam (check out her novel "Sight Hound") led a sold-out Centrum workshop centered around advanced revision. She sat down with us that year to talk about the generating and revising process writing process of her story "The Best Girlfriend You Never Had', which appeared in the 1999 Best American Short Stories anthology and the Best American Short Stories of the Century

Sam first came to the Conference in 2008–and we've asked him back every year since. His workshops cut to the very heart of literary fiction, draw standing-room only crowds, and lead to the creation of much new work. In 2011, we're limiting space to fourteen for his morning workshop, although who knows what will happen in his afternoon offerings (Monday, July 18 and Tuesday, July 19). Get there early, is our advice. The author of the short-story collection “Drift and Swerve” and the novel “Safe in Heaven Dead", Ligon's stories have appeared in many, many literary journals and magazines. He teaches at Eastern Washington University’s Inland Northwest Center for Writers, and Sam ligon2is the editor of the literary journal Willow Springs. Here's his 2011 class description:

"Fiction and the Core Emotions: Writing from Life"

Fiction writers are often accused of appropriating other peoples’ life stories, and in fact to some degree we are guilty as charged. Since literary fiction always explores and is comprised of the core emotions of its characters—fear, shame, alienation, joy, jealousy, sadness, humor, etc.—fiction writers must be constantly attuned to narratives they hear, overhear, read, experience, stumble across or otherwise acquire; we are always on the lookout for stories which reveal and embody core emotions through character, action, and tone. This is so because while fiction isn’t factual, it must always be emotionally truthful and accurate. The best fiction is always driven by core emotions which ring true equally to the reader and the writer. In this class, we’ll be telling aloud the stories from our lives in which we’ve felt core emotions most acutely, focusing specifically on shame, fear, and joy, and then using elements of our stories and classmates’ stories to imagine and write a finished work of  fiction that involves all three of these core emotions. That means contradictory and perhaps conflicting emotions will likely shape the fiction we produce and workshop. We will be using the stories “from life” that we hear and tell as raw material to create something more comprehensible than life—fiction. While we won’t be evaluating the experiences of each others’ lives, we will be discussing them and attempting to appropriate their emotional gravity in the short stories we produce. We’ll be especially interested in discovering which elements of the stories we hear and tell best lend themselves to incorporation in the fiction we write, and how that transformation from life to fiction might most effectively or artfully occur.

And these three workshops–we're limiting all of them to fourteen people–aren't the only way to experience workshops in literary fiction at the 2011 PTWC. Noted writers and writing teachers Midge Raymond and Michael Schein with both be on hand, as well, leading afternoon craft workshops in the creation of literary fiction. Registration for everything opens October 25.