Five Ways of Looking at Short Fiction

A Five Week Series on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Short Fiction

presented by Press 53 and Scuppernong Books

Five Ways of Looking at Short Fiction presents experts of the short story form published by NC small press, Press 53.

In this series you'll learn about place, detail, and character as well as advice on revision and submission.

Individual workshops are $25. The series of 5 is $100.

Workshops are limited to twelve participants and are interactive, so you'll have a chance to ask questions.

All take place online. Once you register, you'll be sent a code for signing in and a copy of a book by your workshop leader.



March 4, 7:00 p.m. 

Maps of the Mind: How I Build Place in Fiction / Jen Julian

Russian short story writer Anton Chekhov famously said, “Living images create thought. It is not the thought which creates the image.” These words I’ve come to understand as the foundation for rich, textured stories. You start with the tangible, the specific, the remembered, and build the story from the ground up. In this seminar, I’ll talk about how physical place can be used in tandem with character, plot, and tension to make fiction come alive. I’ll also share a mapmaking technique, which I have used to help me develop towns, neighborhoods, and even characters’ homes, drawing these spaces to be more distinctive and convincing. Jen Julian won the 2018 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction with her debut story collection Earthly Delights and Other Apocalypses . She is a 2016 Clarion alumna with a PhD in English from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and an MFA in Fiction from UNC Greensboro. Her short stories and essays have appeared or are upcoming in TriQuarterly, Beecher’s Magazine, Greensboro Review, The Chattahoochee Review, and North Carolina Literary Review, among other places.


March 11, 7:00 p.m.

In Praise of Unlikeable Characters: Life’s Not Perfect and Neither is Fiction / Clifford Garstang

Some critics and teachers of fiction maintain that protagonists must be likeable. If readers don’t like the character, this argument goes, how can they relate? How can they even begin to care what happens to that character? But likeable is, sometimes, boring. What readers really want is characters who are interesting. We all have flaws, so we can probably relate better to a character with flaws. In this seminar, we’ll talk about creating realistic characters with realistic flaws—people who may not be likeable but who nonetheless make readers care about them. We’ll look at examples from literature, from Shakespeare to Elizabeth Strout to see how these authors presented flawed characters without sacrificing their humanity or relatableness. We’ll also talk about characters in my latest story collection, House of the Ancients and Other Stories, in which characters who behave badly may still earn the reader’s sympathy. We’ll conclude with some suggestions for reading and also some writing exercises to do on your own. Clifford Garstang is the author of a novel, The Shaman of Turtle Valley, and two collections of short stories, In an Uncharted Country and What the Zhang Boys Know, which won the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction. His new short story collection, House of the Ancients and Other Stories, was published by Press 53 in May 2020. He was editor of the three-volume anthology series, Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, and is co-founder and past managing editor of Prime Number Magazine.


March 18, 7:00 p.m. 

It’s All in the Details / Shuly Xóchitl Cawood

In this seminar, Shuly Xóchitl Cawood will share how she used sensory details in her stories to create a sense of place; build an emotional landscape; and show the passage of time. Shuly's debut story collection, A Small Thing to Want, was published by Press 53 in May 2020. Shuly Xóchitl Cawood is the author of A Small Thing to Want, her debut collection of short fiction, published by Press 53 in May 2020. She is the author of two other books: The Going and Goodbye: A Memoir (Platypus Press, 2017) and 52 Things I Wish I Could Have Told Myself When I Was 17 (Cimarron Books, 2018). She earned her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, and her writing has been published in Brevity, The Rumpus, Cider Press Review, and others.


March 25, 7:00 p.m. 

Dos and Don’ts of Submitting / Kevin Morgan Watson

Press 53 publisher and editor in chief Kevin Morgan Watson will discuss—and answer your questions about—the ins and outs of submitting your short stories to literary journals. Knowing what not to do is often more important than know what to do regarding formatting, simple punctuation and grammar, and also etiquette. Kevin Morgan Watson is publisher and editor in chief at Press 53, which he founded in October 2005. Located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Press 53 has published authors from thirty-five states, producing 250 titles that have earned more than ninety awards. He co-founded Prime Number Magazine with Press 53 author Clifford Garstang, a free online quarterly journal of distinctive poetry and short fiction. In March of 2019, Press 53 launched the High Road Festival of Poetry and Short Fiction, making it the only festival in the U.S. that focuses exclusively on poetry and short fiction.


April 1, 7:00 p.m. 

Revision / Clint McCown

Whatever kind of material we’re trying to write— novels or short stories, poems or creative nonfiction, sci-fi or romance, fantasy or mystery— every project has one thing in common:  the need for revision. Ezra Pound may have been right when he advised First thought, best thought, but that doesn’t mean the first way we choose to express that thought is the one we ought to be locked into. In this talk, I’ll touch on some of the various ways we can approach revising our work to make it the best expression of whatever vision we’re trying to communicate.  Clint McCown is the only two-time recipient of the American Fiction Prize. His collected stories, Music or Hard Times, will be published in April 2021 by Press 53. He has published four novels and six volumes of poems including Total Balance Farm, and The Dictionary of Unspellable Noises: New & Selected Poems 1975-2018, published by Press 53. He has edited a number of literary journals, including the Beloit Fiction Journal, which he founded in 1984. He teaches in the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University and in the low-residency MFA program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.