In a celebrated essay, “Against Epiphanies,” Charles Baxter noted that the epiphany has become the most common way that short story writers in America end their stories, so much so that the device has become a mindless and rigid cliché. So we are left to wonder about effective ways to end a narrative that employ strategies which rely on neither traditional plot resolution or epiphany. As well, we should ask how does the ending of a short story differ from the ending of a novel? These are the subjects that we will explore in our workshop through a close examination of some representative texts. Readings will serve as the basis for exercises to generate new work. Discussion will also include one of your own projects. The class welcomes prose writers (fiction and nonfiction) at all levels and work at all stages.
Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, Jeffery Renard Allen is the author of five books, including the novel Song of the Shank, which is loosely based on the life of Blind Tom, a nineteenth century African American piano virtuoso and composer who was the first African American to perform at The White House. The novel was featured as the front-page review of both The New York Times Book Review and The San Francisco Chronicle. It won the CLMP Firecracker Award, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and was also nominated for the Dublin Literary Prize. Allen is the author of two other works of fiction, the novel Rails Under My Back, which won the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Fiction, and the short story collection Holding Pattern, which won The Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Allen’s other honors include the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was a fellow at New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers and a resident at the Bellagio Center. His website is www.jefferyrenardallen.com.