The University of Iowa

Sandra Scofield

Sandra Scofield is the author of seven novels that include Beyond Deserving, a finalist for the National Book Award; a memoir, Occasions of Sin; a book of essays about family titled Mysteries of Love and Grief; and a recent book of stories, Swim: Stories of the Sixties. She has also written two craft books for fiction writers. The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer has helped thousands of writers since 2006. The Last Draft: The Novelist’s Guide to Revision (2017) is based on Sandra’s 25 years teaching at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sandra is on the faculty of the low-residency Solstice M.F.A. Program at Pine Manor College. She is also an intrepid traveler, an avid painter, and a besotted grandmother.

Instructor Events

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Sandra Scofield

Agency is the word for a character’s central role in pushing a story forward. Often a first draft traps us in a story with characters who are passive, or who just can’t figure out what to do next. But responsibility for one’s own fate builds character sympathy. How do you develop your protagonist’s agency, especially if your character is in trouble? You build character struggle that comes from obstacles between what is desired and what seems possible. You upset the equilibrium and put good things at risk. Does every novel have to be about a hero? Absolutely not.

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Sandra Scofield

You have a story you are burning to tell. You're carrying it around in you but you haven't even started. OR: You're writing but you aren't sure you can make it to the end. It's prime time to learn key concepts, such as the difference between plot, chronology, and structure. What it means for a character to have agency. How to write a scene sequence. It's okay to have "holes" you haven't filled. You can roam the narrative to test the strength of events and the logic of the steps you take in telling them. You will build chronologies of foreground ("now") and background (history).

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Sandra Scofield

You have an idea. Maybe you have pages. You also have doubts (don't we all?). This is an opportunity to share and test your amniotic story in a safe, generous, and productive community setting. The premise—your core idea—is the bedrock of the novel. Why is this story the one you are compelled to write? Where did it come from? What are the basic elements of plot and character that you know so far? Shake it up and see what else is there.