Open That Drawer! Reviving the Stalled Novel
Many of us begin work on a novel in a frenzy of inspiration but there are many reasons for why an unfinished novel goes into a drawer: life gets in the way, the initial motivation peters out, we plot ourselves into a dead end or we simply lose confidence in the work. This intensive workshop is geared toward quickly helping you breathe some new life into a promising project. Each day will be devoted to approaching your novel through the lens of a different element of a novelist’s craft: voice, character, structure, setting, plot, scene.
Each morning, I will post lecture notes about that day’s topic. You will receive reading assignments (excerpts from craft essays on revision and drafting including Anne Lamott, George Saunders, Dorothy Allison, Alexander Chee, Frederick Reiken) and exercises geared toward incorporating that element of craft into your draft. You will be responsible for posting short excerpts and a response to your peers’ work by 5pm EST. The morning of the final class, you will write me about the unique challenge facing your novel and will receive a personal exercise to post by that afternoon. Once the class is over, I will write each of you a letter highlighting the strengths of your projects and suggestions for moving forward.
You should have some novel-in-progress you want to work on in this course, but there is no minimum word count; it doesn’t matter if you enter the workshop having written ten or two hundred pages.
Irina Reyn’s newest novel Mother Country was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2019. It was featured on Marie Claire magazine’s “Best Fiction Books by Women This Year” list, was a “New and Noteworthy” New York Times Book Review book, A Publishers Weekly’s “Pick of the Week” among other accolades. It received starred Publishers Weekly and Library Journal reviews. An excerpt from the novel was a Notable Story in Best American Short Stories, 2018, edited by Roxane Gay. The paperback was published by Picador in March 2020.
Her second novel The Imperial Wife was published by Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press in 2016 and featured in O. Magazine, Real Simple, Cosmopolitan and other publications. Irina’s first novel What Happened to Anna K. was published by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster in August 2008. That novel was selected as an IndieBound Next Pick for August. It was also one of “Ten Best Books of the Year” by Entertainment Weekly, one of Amazon.com’s Best Books of August 2008, and made both San Francisco Chronicle‘s and Washington Post‘s “Best Books of the Year List.” It won of the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction from the Foundation for Jewish Culture.
Her anthology Living on the Edge of the World: New Jersey Writers Take on the Garden State (Touchstone, 2007) includes Jonathan Ames, Dani Shapiro, Lauren Grodstein, Frederick Reiken, Caroline Leavitt, and many others. Irina’s work has appeared in One Story, Post Road, Tin House, Los Angeles Times, Town & Country Travel, Poets & Writers, The Forward, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Moscow Times, among others. She reviews literary fiction and nonfiction for national publications.
Her fiction and personal essays can be found in many anthologies, including Not Like I’m Jealous or Anything: The Jealousy Book (Delacorte), Becoming American: Personal Essays by First Generation Immigrant Women (Hyperion) and A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross-Cultural Collision and Connection (OV Books). Irina was born in Moscow, and currently divides her time between Pittsburgh and Brooklyn. She is Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.