Austin Books Genre Teaching

Another reason it’s nice to befriend writers

They will come and speak to your fiction workshops! Last Friday, the fabulous Maureen McHugh visited my summer fiction class and spent about 75 minutes talking with my students. In preparation for her visit, they’d read a story from her currently in-development collection of post-apocalyptic short fiction, and they’d also read the first 25 pages of The Road as a counterpoint.

Maureen on the right, talking to one side of the table

We talked about Maureen’s ARG company No Mimes. She walked the students through the development of a typical ARG project and described the many ways that working in the ARG world is different from writing prose fiction, by yourself, at your computer — and the many sorts of knowledge she’s gained from writing in a fiction-adjacent field.

We talked about the story the students read, “After the Apocalypse,” which follows a mother and daughter trying to go north to Detroit — not south, like McCarthy’s father and son — after the world falls apart. Maureen explained how she viewed her story as existing in conversation with McCarthy’s novel, but not offering a direct response to it (though we did offer some direct responses to the novel in class!). She also noted which elements of the story had changed in response to workshop feedback.

We also talked about Twitter and about communities of writers; Maureen is @maureenmcq on Twitter, for reference. I first read one of Maureen’s books when I was in college (China Mountain Zhang, still one of my favorite books), but I got to know her personally after becoming friendly with a group of Austin writers I met through Twitter. One of my favorite things about the writing world on Twitter is how generous many established writers are with their time, with their RTs of former students’ excited announcements, with their enthusiasm about new books. Maureen’s visit to our class was just another instance of that kind of generosity, and we had a great time.

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