The First Two Pages: “English 398: Fiction Workshop” by Art Taylor

In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.

Generally I aim to highlight other writers’ accomplishments here at the First Two Pages, just as B.K. Stevens did week after week. But I also appreciated the times that Bonnie stepped up to talk about one of her own stories, and it was through reading her essays reflecting on her work that I realized how closely aligned our aesthetic sensibilities were—the thoughts on craft that inspired us and drove us—even though folks reading our stories might not see clear connections. (Just for a glimpse of her thoughts on craft, check out Bonnie’s essay on her Anthony Award-winning novella “The Last Blue Glass.”)

Like me, Bonnie also taught for many, many years at the college level—starting first as a tenure-track professor and then giving that career track up to take adjunct positions instead, a history she recounts in the afterword to “Adjuncts Anonymous,” a fine story in her collection Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime. In that afterword, Bonnie explains, “Of all the stories I’ve ever written, ‘Adjuncts Anonymous’ draws most directly on my own experiences”—and the melding of real-life experiences (those adjunct-level struggles) with imagination (a murder and an investigation) makes the story extra compelling.

My story “English 398: Fiction Workshop,” just published in the July/August issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, marks the first time I’ve written explicitly about the college setting, and while the story isn’t autobiographical (clearly!), I did try, as Bonnie did, to incorporate bits and pieces of creative writing pedagogy in the piece, as you’ll see in the essay here.

Just wishing again that Bonnie were here to read it herself and let me know what she thought.

Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay here to read off-line.

Taylor English 398

4 thoughts on “The First Two Pages: “English 398: Fiction Workshop” by Art Taylor

  1. David Dean

    Having read your excellent story, Art, I think you succeeded in your goals. Great essay and terrific story. Thanks.

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