Charles Wyatt has served as visiting fiction writer at Binghamton University, The University of Central Oklahoma, Purdue University and Oberlin College.

 

In 1991, he earned his MFA from Warren Wilson College.  Many of the stories in Listening to Mozart were begun during that time.  After the publication of Listening to Mozart, Charles quit his job with the NSO, having decided that there were better things in life than being yelled at by conductors. He has since served as visiting fiction writer at Binghamton University, Denison University, The University of Central Oklahoma, Purdue University and Oberlin College.  

On Teaching

 

In addition to college teaching, I teach online courses in fiction writing through UCLA Extension and I teach in the Low Residency MFA Program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

 

 

MFA Programs

 

There's a great deal of information on MFA programs available on the web. I would recommend that the interested writer begin with AWP. (The Association of Writers & Writing Programs)

AWP offers a guide to Creative Writing Programs which is an excellent and thorough source of information. Poets & Writers magazine publishes a yearly issue on MFA Programs.  You can also search for MFA programs directly.

 

UCLA Extension

 

At various times during the year, I teach online courses in fiction: Introduction to Fiction Writing, Writing the Short Story (intermediate), and The Art of the Short Story (Advanced). Students sometimes use these classes to prepare portfolios for MFA program applications. The UCLA Writing Program always offers a wide variety of classes in creative writing.

 

For students who might be considering taking one of my classes, I'm providing some of my thoughts about teaching creative writing:

I come to teaching creative writing from another place (the world of music). Musicians listen to each other, and I try to encourage writers to listen to each other (and to themselves) with the same intensity. Language is heard, even when we are reading. And writing must be practiced in the same sense that musicians practice scales and athletes train.

My approach to teaching creative writing depends upon reading. For fiction writers, story is the teacher. (I'm using the term story in its largest sense.) We have to read to understand how story works, whether we are speaking of short stories or the novel or anything in between.

I'm really interested in helping students learn to follow their own intuition. Potentially, every writer has a unique approach and an individual voice. The craft issues are pretty much the same. I used to think the purpose of teaching was to save students time, but sometimes it's important for writers to have the courage to make mistakes. A writer who can write upstream and who's willing to practice the way musicians practice will find his/her way to the story.

To riff on Northrop Frye, every story is a figured bass upon which other stories can be constructed (and each story has another deeper structure hidden beneath it). In both reading and writing, we seek out these relationships and elaborate upon them.

I'm another pair of eyes and ears, a coach, but not an editor. I want you to become your own editor. But I might lead you to a place to dig. Maybe in this particular story you won't find water (or gold), but in another story, you'll remember the lie of the land, and you may find it there.

My approach to teaching creative writing depends upon reading. For fiction writers, story is the teacher. (I'm using the term story in its largest sense.) We have to read to understand how story works, whether we are speaking of short stories or the novel or anything in between.

Fiction writers should be as concerned with language as poets – and if fiction writers don't write poetry, they shouuld be reading it.

Flannery O'Connor says in Mystery & Manners, "there's a certain grain of stupidity that the writer of fiction can hardly do without, and this is the quality of having to stare, of not getting the point at once. The longer you look at one object, the more of the world you see in it; and it's well to remember that the serious fiction writer always writes about the whole world, no matter how limited his particular scene."

I call this "stupidity" attention. We learn to pay attention to what we're writing about and then to the story itself. It can also be called listening.

While you are likely to "finish" many stories and chapters during the pursuit of an MFA or a certificate program, I want you to become more keenly aware of a process, of the attention you bring regularly to writing. Quicker than you realize, the program will be behind you and you will be forced to rely upon your own resources.

Poetry

 

There's not too much danger of finding yourself in a teaching situation with me as the teacher.  Back in the day when we carried students' work around in briefcases, anybody who wrote both fiction and poetry chose to teach poetry.  I wonder why that is?  My advice to aspiring poets is to find poets you admire and read, read, read.  Read what Helen Vendler has to say about any poet.  Read Western Wind, An Introduction to Poetry by John Frederick Nims.  Ellen Voigt suggested it to me when I discovered I was going to be teaching poetry to undergraduates at Denison University.  It really helped.  And read Ellen Voigt. She's a wonderful poet.   

 

My advice to aspiring fiction writers is to read poetry.  You're going to want to pay as much attention to your sentences as poets do to their lines.

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© 2015 Charles M. Wyatt