Critical Reading Workshop is Tonight!

We’ll be critiquing Michael Chabon’s Werewolves in Their Youth at the Capital Club this evening. Bring your thoughts, comments, and your teenage angst!

Questions to ponder while reading:

  1. Chabon is sometimes referred to as one of the foremost “stylists” of his generation (referring not, I think, to a propensity for playing with hair, but rather a propensity for playing with sentence structure)–did any of the sentences in this story strike you as being particularly well formed? Did you notice instances in which the sentence structure or paragraph structure helped carrying the meaning of the text? Were any sentences that were out and out duds?
  2. This story attempts to portray the inner and outer worlds of beleaguered tween boys–how does Chabon build these worlds? What details does he use to make them believable? What details does he leave out? What sort of building block short cuts does he use?
  3. The story is split into two distinct halves and two distinct settings–how does this structure help carry the story’s message and intent?

That’s it for questions!

As always, this event is free and open to the public, and you do not need to be a CCC member to attend. The Capital Club is located on the lobby floor of the Doubletree Suites Hotel on South Front Street. Get more details in this ancient blog post.

Check back next week when we’ll be posting discussion questions for you to mull over before the meetup.

Questions? Comments? Got a story you’d love to discuss? Send them to the workshop moderator at See you there.

Writing Flash: Reading Workshop Discussion Questions

We hope you can join us for our reading workshop this Wednesday, July 13 at 7 p.m. We’re discussing strategies for writing better flash fiction and nonfiction. Don’t worry: if you’re short on time, so are these stories. And, all of them are available to read online! For those of you who like to prepare in the parking garage or on your way up the elevator to the Capital Club: you totally can.

We’re reading two fiction stories from the anthology Flash Fiction International. Sovetskoye Shampanskoye (Berit Ellingsen) reads like a poetic abstract to an international crime thriller, and shows just how much you can actually communicate in a limited space. Please Hold Me the Forgotten Way (H.J. Shepard) is a quieter snapshot of a moment in time for its two characters.

We’re also reading two flash essays from Brevity, a flash nonfiction journal: Roots by M. Sausun and Naked  by Alyssa Quinn.

Below are a few discussion questions to think about while you read. Then join us Wednesday to figure out how to fit a world into 1,000 words or less.

This event is free and open to the public, and you do not need to be a CCC member to attend. We’ll meet at 7 p.m. at the Capital Club. Get directions here.

Never been to a reading workshop? Check out our FAQ, and feel free to contact the workshop moderator with any questions.

Flash Fiction Discussion Questions

These apply to every story. Answer them all four times if you’re an overachiever, or cherry-pick to your liking. It’s okay.

  • Are these complete stories? What elements are necessary for a story to feel whole? Do these stories contain all of those elements, either explicit or implicit?
  • What are the most powerful sentences in each story? Why?
  • Titles become very important in flash—they really account for a significant percentage of the word count. How do the titles of each story further our understanding?
  • What is omitted in each story? What is included? Why do you think the author made those choices?
  • What does the story gain by its brevity? What is lost?
  • What tricks do the authors use to convey information in few words? What specific words can you find that are doing lots of work?
  • How much do you actually know about the characters in each story? How much more do you guess about the characters, and how does the author influence your assumptions?
  • In the nonfiction essays, the author’s voice (or the “I” of the story—the one who is speaking) takes on a special importance. It’s really this voice that distinguishes the nonfiction essay from fiction. How does this voice influence the story being told?

Critical Reading Workshop: Flash Edition

Planning on taking top honors in the flash essay contest? Come to the reading workshop on July 13 to hone your skills. We’ll discuss techniques for crafting better flash fiction and essays using story selections from the altogether brilliant anthology Flash Fiction International, and essay selections from Brevity, an online journal of “extremely brief” creative nonfiction.

Grab your copy of Flash Fiction International, and bring it to the Capital Club on July 13 at 7 p.m. Stay tuned to the blog for story selections and discussion questions. And don’t worry: the stories, like this blog post, will be brief.

This event is free and open to the public, and you do not need to be a CCC member to attend. See you there!

April Critical Reading Workshop: Character Development

No foolin’—the April critical reading workshop is just around the corner! This month we’ll use Dan Chaon’s quietly uncanny story “To Psychic Underworld” to talk about strategies for developing interesting characters. You can find the full story on Tin House’s website here, or pick up a copy of Stay Awake, Chaon’s newest story collection.

Chaon has earned a reputation for writing stories that are driven by the inner lives of his characters, and “To Psychic Underworld” is no different. Check it out, then join us at the Capital Club on April 13 at 7 p.m. for a casual roundtable discussion of the story.

We’ll post discussion questions before the workshop to help us focus on how Chaon develops Critter, the central character of “To Psychic Underworld.”

Never attended a reading workshop? Check out our FAQ, and feel free to contact the workshop moderator with comments and questions. As always, this event is free and you do not need to be a CCC member to attend. Hope to see you there!


Critical Reading Workshop: Writing the Graphic Novel

Do you read graphic novels? Ever thought about writing one, but don’t know where to start? This month’s critical reading workshop is for you! Join us March 9 at 7 p.m. for a discussion of Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying, a collection of graphic short stories that will change the way you think about comics.

So, we’re reading a comic book?

Yes. And no. The term “graphic novel” has become a catch-all for any illustrated work that is not a serial superhero comic. Not that graphic novels can’t be about superheroes. They can. They can be long-form narrative (like a novel) or a collection of short stories. They can stick to a genre like sci-fi or fantasy, or they can be realistic, satirical, or autobiographical. In short: graphic novels can be about anything.

What about the book we’re reading?

Killing and Dying is a collection of six short stories that are quiet slices from the lives of ordinary, diverse characters: an addict in recovery, a soldier home from the war, an awkward teen grappling with her mother’s impending death, and others. We’re going to focus on two of the stories for our discussion: “Go Owls” and “Translated, from the Japanese,” but feel free to bring your thoughts on any story to the table.  We’ll look at how Tomine (pronounced “TOH-muh-nay”) uses a different style of illustration and narration for each piece, and talk about how words and images work together to tell a story. (FYI: “Go Owls” contains some strong language and brief cartoon nudity. This may be a comic book, but it’s not one for your kids.)

But I don’t draw.

Me neither. Some artists (Tomine included) do both writing and illustration for their work, but writers often will collaborate with a visual artist to produce a graphic novel. As with traditional fiction, the best way to learn how to write a graphic novel is to read a lot of them. And then talk about why they work. With us. On March 9.

OK, I’m interested…

I knew you would be! Grab your copy of Killing and Dying and meet us March 9 at 7 p.m. at the Capital Club in the Doubletree Suites Hotel in downtown Columbus.  We’ll post a few discussion questions soon to consider while you’re reading. Of course, you’re always welcome to just show up and hang out, too. The more you put in, the more you’ll take away, but we’ll enjoy your company either way. See you there!

Questions? Comments? Contact the workshop moderator.