I recently took a fiction workshop from author Maureen McHugh through Writing Pad in Los Angeles. It was a great experience and helped me create a strange new short story I never would have expected myself to write.
Once a month I want to feature a writer for you who I believe has achieved the Writer’s Hat Trick: Pen, Pedagogy, and Personality. (Yes, I just coined that, so credit me if you steal it 😉 ).
McHugh has likability—the kind that, if she were a character, would have you rooting for her at every twist and turn of the book. I think it comes from the openness in her countenance, which is backed up by an even more welcoming demeanor.
As a teacher, she was creative in her prompts for getting each of our ideas started. She then guided us through sculpting the ideas via a series of suggestions. Each suggestion matched the more in-depth development with increased time to write. It was well-executed, timed so that each student had time to write, read a section and get very pointed feedback.
It was exciting to watch her mind working through each student’s piece. We were a varied group, representing a large cross-section of genres: sci-fi; fantasy; YA; literary fiction; etc. McHugh brought her A-game to work with the group. From her bio on the Writing Pad site, I had already learned about her work:
About Maureen McHugh:
Maureen McHugh has written two collections of short stories and four novels, including “China Mountain Zhang” which was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula award and won the James Tiptree, Jr. award. Her latest short story collection, “After the Apocalypse” (Small Beer Press), was one of Publishers Weekly’s 10 Best Books of 2011 and the only short story collection to win this award last year. She got her undergraduate degree from Ohio University, and her Masters in English (with a concentration in fiction writing) from New York University.
I’ve put in an order for each of the books through my independent bookstore and hopefully I will see her again one day to get them signed (or re-signed if my inscription wish comes true). I enjoy torturing my favorite bookstore owners with a challenge, and it’s fun to see where and how they find me copies, considering I have very specific requests (not always possible)—first edition, hardcover, dust jacket, previously inscribed to an individual when possible—it’s difficult to explain this last one. It’s just a quirk I have. If you’re the impatient type, however, you can check out her page on Amazon.
If you’re really super-duper impatient, you can read some of her work for free:
The Naturalist – a very cool ZOMBIE piece published online in Subterranean Press. I had to allcaps my zombie there, because I do have readers who are zombies, and for those of you who don’t know, zombies only read in allcaps. So I like to torture them by letting them know I’m saying something about them, then remind them that AN ALLCAPS VERSION OF THE BLOG IS AVAILABLE FOR A HUNDRED DOLLARS. I do expect if I don’t die as shark chum (reference my delusional shark wrangler blog) then I will be zombied. Again, if you swipe the little known allcaps fact, credit me, love me, give me your firstborn. I’m guessing someone else already verb’d zombie.
Mothers & Other Monsters – her publisher, Small Beer Press has been generous enough to offer a free download of this book. This was McHugh’s first collection of short stories and I personally think it’s more interesting to buy an actual book, so if you like the work, consider adding an actual, real, “live” book to your collection through your indie booksellers or the Amazon link above.
A writer doesn’t need a hat trick to be successful. I’ve met a lot of writers. There are plenty who are, well, kind of intolerable as human beings, but quite successful writers. I won’t be bringing you any of those.
Some writers barely pass muster with the actual writing but are so dynamic that they develop a following, seemingly on charisma alone. I don’t know any of these, or else I am one of these. I haven’t yet decided. I will not be bringing you any of these, either. Or else you’re stuck with one of these every time you visit. I haven’t yet decided.
There are also plenty of good writers who are great people, but who don’t teach. That’s okay, but I put a lot of value in writers who teach, even if it’s just occasional workshops, so the only ones I will be bringing you are ones I believe are successful in all three areas.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about McHugh and are already reading her work.
Too lazy to read much except my blog? Then check out a video of her work. She is currently a writer at Fourth Wall Studios. You can watch ther latest installment in Dark Wall, titled “Whispers.” But I don’t recommend watching it alone, in the dark, like I did.