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Writing Workshops

Unputdownable: How to Grab the Reader's Attention and Keep It with Stefan Merrill Block


3 Sessions

Out of stock

Friday—Sunday March 31 to April 2, 2023

Online via Zoom

Meeting Details:
Friday 3/31, 6–8pm ET
Saturday 4/1 & Sunday 4/2, 12–2pm ET

Whether it’s literary fiction, a genre novel, or nonfiction, a story’s ability to find a readership comes down to a single essential question: do readers feel that they need to keep turning pages? In this three-session bootcamp, participants will explore techniques to seize and hold the reader’s precious attention. By dissecting a few celebrated pieces of short fiction, the workshop will consider ways to naturally cultivate suspense, to raise stakes and escalate conflict, to craft compelling and sympathetic characters, to keep language urgent and active, and to structure a story in the most dramatic way possible. This bootcamp is perfect for writers who are trying to revise their work for maximum effect, and also for writers who are just at the start of a project and considering how to give shape to an idea or story.

Course Outline

For the lecture portion of each class, we’ll discuss a distinct element of craft, using 1–2 piece(s) of published fiction to illustrate our conversation.

  • Session I: High-Stakes Premise and Structure
    Reading: Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
  • Session II: Active Language and Dialogue
    Reading: “Boys Town” by Jim Shepard and “That Crafty Feeling” by Zadie Smith
  • Session III: Unforgettable Characters and Settings
    Reading: “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro and “Posthumous” by Jeffery Eugenides

Capacity: 20

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Led by

  • Stefan Merrill Block

    Stefan Merrill Block

    Stefan Merrill Block

    Stefan Merrill Block grew up in Plano, Texas. His first book, The Story of Forgetting, was an international bestseller and the winner of Best First Fiction at the Rome International Festival of Literature, The Ovid Prize from the Romanian Writer’s Union, the 2008 Merck Serono Literature Prize and the 2009 Fiction Award from The Writers’ League of Texas. The Story of Forgetting was also a finalist for the debut fiction awards from IndieBound, Salon du Livre, and The Center for Fiction. Following the publication of his second novel, The Storm at the Door, Stefan was awarded The University of Texas Dobie-Paisano Fellowship, as well as residencies at The Santa Maddalena Foundation and Castello Malaspina di Fosdinovo in Italy. Stefan’s stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the New York Times Book Review, the New Yorker Page-Turner, the Guardian, NPR’s Radiolab, GRANTA, Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. Stefan’s third novel, Oliver Loving, was released in 2018 by Macmillan/Flatiron Books, and is being developed for television by Participant Media.