Hunger Mountain - Vermont College Journal of the arts

Craft Essays

How He Did It: Interview with Kevin Wilson, Author of The Family Fang

by Sarah Braud
Wilson’s sentences, simply rendered, evoke a youthful, postmodern worldview in all its confusions. What is art? What is family? What is the age of accountability? When do American children really detach from their parents? Kevin Wilson blurs the lines beyond reason, and I loved every second of it. How did he do it? I asked myself over and over as I read and reread The Family Fang.

Our New York, Too, Will Disappear: Writing on a Big Topic

by Jessamine Price
Visit with Jessamine Price
“The Synthetic Sublime,” by Cynthia Ozick, was the first essay that ever made me cry. It was early winter, late 2001. I was living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on the salt-breezed fringes of New York. All four windows of my apartment looked out onto airshafts; every view was of red bricks crisscrossed with fire escapes.

Story, Image, and Idea

by Clint McCown
Visit with Clint McCown
What I’m saying is that for me, poetry was the training ground where I learned the importance of story, image, and idea. Poetry taught me how to write fiction. And not just in my beginnings, but even today, poetry remains my best avenue into fiction.

The Potential of the Peripheral: Secondary Characters in Jane Smiley’s The Age of Grief

by Robin Black
Visit with Robin Black
My scant use of a supporting cast came about at least in part because I feared losing my hold on the question of what was at stake in each work. Writing short stories at the time, a form for which necessity is a common demand, I was terrified (a strong word, but an accurate one) of introducing anything or anyone a reader might consider irrelevant….

Corn Maze

by Pam Houston
When it was decided (When was that again, and by whom?) that we were all supposed to choose between fiction and nonfiction, what was not taken into account was that for some of us truth can never be an absolute, that there can (at best) be only less true and more true and sometimes those two collapse inside each other….

Idiosyncratic Tone in the Novel

by Wendy Voorsanger
Visit with Wendy Voorsanger
Tone is the emotional color or musical pitch of a novel. It’s typically a feeling or atmosphere a writer establishes and maintains through an entire piece of writing. It’s not what is being said or done—it’s how it’s said or done. It’s the words on the page: their rhythm, grammar, diction, sound, and sequence.

A Prose Writer Reads a Few Poems

by Richard McCann
Visit with Richard McCann
Let us look now at two poems by Marie Howe, the poet of my generation from whom I often feel I’ve learned more as a writer (and yes, as a writer of prose) than most anyone, perhaps because when she speaks about the process of writing, she speaks about it as being something far more than a craft.

I Craft, Therefore I am: Creating Persona through Syntax and Style

by Erika Anderson
Visit with Erika Anderson
If you speak to the reader in long, meandering or breathless sentences, you translate differently from a persona who speaks in short, staccato bursts. And of course our personas are far from static, but we aim for consistency in tone. In general, how you reveal yourself, is, well, revealing.

The Happy Ending Effect

by Heather Sharfeddin
Visit with Heather Sharfeddin
One of the biggest frustrations literary authors face in publishing is the pressure to write happy endings. We consider ourselves artists, but publishing is a business—a money-making, dollars-and-cents business. It is driven by trends in consumer spending, just like any other.

Conjuring the Magic of Story:
Aspects of Resonance in Fiction

The author’s grandmother

by Stephanie Friedman
Visit with Stephanie Friedman
In my grandmother’s kitchen, a story was a felt experience for both teller and audience, a dynamic swirl of emotions and impulses, some of which were controlled and understood in the telling, and some not. I’ve found myself looking back to those sessions around the kitchen table as I try to write fiction that remains present with the characters and uses language that embodies them.

The Space Bar Is Not a Design Tool:
Form, Function, and the Appearance-Oriented Essay

by Caitlin Leffel
Visit with Caitin Leffel
Prose writers are expected to write like monks, enrobing their good work in the uniform of double-spaced 12-point Times and forsaking individual aesthetic expression in deference to the gods of publication.

Abandoned Landscapes:
The Art of Landscape in Contemporary American Fiction and a Renegade Plea for its Return

by Robin MacArthur
Visit with Robin MacArthur
Rather than old-fashioned or pedantic or repetitive, landscape in fiction suddenly seems to me not just valid, but revolutionary.

Larry’s dog Murphy

Walking Your Writing as You Would Your Dog

by Larry Sutin
I never wake up and say, “Am I going to spend time with my dog this week?” If I really had to ask that question, I shouldn’t own a dog. When you spend happy and caring time with a dog or with your writing process you find that the relationship between the two of you deepens, becomes more affectionate, becomes more knowing.

No, You Do NOT Have To Write a Novel! A Celebration of the Short Story and the Short Story Writer

by Claire Guyton
When I’m asked if I ever plan to write a novel, I wave that heap of imaginary pages aside, sometimes I even roll my eyes. “All I want to do in this world,” I have said so many times, “is write just one perfect short story.”

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