ROBIN McLEAN met JIM SHEPARD in a fiction workshop in Italy in 2013, two years after she’d finished her MFA in fiction, two years after she’d sworn off all workshops forever. But she’d read a few of Jim’s stories by then and was hooked. She’s worked with Jim on many stories since, has followed him and Karen Shepard around. Many do. Robin generally shows up with a pile of questions, often about agency or “rate of revelation” or “subliminal coordinates.” If you don’t know what those are, sign up for a workshop with Jim Shepard.
Here are some inquiries asked and answered on a spring pilgrimage to Western Mass in 2022, a sunny morning on a snowy hilltop, an icon of an old tape deck set on RECORD between cups of coffee, three dogs hunting crumbs around the table, then basking in the sun as the ideas flowed.
Looking for the Weirdness: An Interview with Jim Shepard
Give your writing a boost this spring. Join The Common for a series of craft classes with these literary luminaries.
Jim Shepard: Generating Fiction from History [register]
Vievee Francis and Curtis Bauer: Writing Toward a Poetry Chapbook or Collection [register]
W. Ralph Eubanks: How to Turn a Place into an Essay [register]
Each class includes a craft talk and Q&A with the guest author, generative exercises and discussion in breakout sessions, and a take-home list of readings and writing prompts. Students also receive exclusive access to a free “Behind the Scenes” session about what literary magazine editors look for in submissions. Recordings will be available after the fact for participants who cannot attend the live event.
Each class is $125, or $75 for current subscribers or past Weekly Writes participants.
Sometimes, after finishing a particularly impactful book, I experience a partial paralysis. It’s a sort of ecstatic exhaustion, I think; I’ve felt similarly after long, intense runs. If there is a window nearby, I’ll stare out it without really noticing anything in particular. If my chair is capable of rocking, I’ll do so steadily and rhythmically to the point where people sitting nearby will clear their throats in my general direction. I will occasionally mutter an expletive over and over under my breath. I don’t deny that all this is sort of dramatic. In my own defense, it doesn’t happen that often, and it requires a fairly momentous reading experience. Again, this happens usually after finishing a book. It seems significant, then, that I felt emotionally KO-ed after nearly every story in Jim Shepard’s new collection of short fiction, You Think That’s Bad. The equivalent would perhaps be getting picked up by the same girl eleven times in a row despite having your heart broken every single time. And being ready to be picked up again, if she ever comes back.