Drawing on syllabi for Joyce Carol Oates’s own writing seminar at Princeton University, Telling Stories gathers over one hundred works of narrative art—"miniature" narratives, dramatic monologues, early stories by well-known writers, prose pieces inspired by myth, legend, and folktale, poems that tell stories, memoir and diary excerpts, two examples of genre fiction, and a generous sampling of classic and contemporary short stories—selected to stimulate and inspire beginning writers as they practice and perfect their craft.
Oates’s chapter introductions and afterword on the writing workshop offer students encouragement, advice, and exercises for honing their skills.
As a teacher, Oates emphasizes the importance of reading widely with enthusiasm, pleasure, and purpose. Telling Stories
reflects this emphasis, introducing students to a variety of models for their own writing and encouraging them to concentrate on details, revise often, make material their own, experiment with genre, and ultimately find their own voice.
Edited by a contemporary master of the storyteller’s art "who defines herself primarily as a friend of the text and a friend of the writer," Telling Stories
is the perfect anthology for creative writing workshops and fiction classes and a wellspring of inspiration for any beginning writer. "The love of storytelling—to hear stories, and to tell them—is universal in our species. Those with an apparent talent for writing. . . are not of a special breed but simply mirror the common human desire. [If] you have a natural talent for writing, and a love of the imagination, you risk a lifelong deprivation if you fail to cultivate it as vigorously as you can. Write your own ’great American novel‘. . . you’re talented, you’re intelligent, you have the driving passion, and you know as much as anyone about American life. Your story belongs uniquely to you."
—Joyce Carol Oates, from the Introduction
"Every book, every story, every sentence we read is a part of our preparation for our own writing," suggests Joyce Carol Oates in her introduction to Telling Stories, "so it's wise to choose our reading carefully." Easily said. But apart from sticking to the classics and canceling that subscription to People magazine, how does one go about choosing wisely? One way is to find a reliable anthologist, and in Oates we have just that. Prolific a writer as she is, Oates also teaches creative writing at Princeton, and she uses many of the stories, prose pieces, and poems collected in Telling Stories as material for her writing workshops. Among the nearly 100 authors included in the volume are Anton Chekhov and Lydia Davis, Ovid and Angela Carter, H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, Gish Jen and Thom Jones. A rich stew it is indeed, and a terrific jumping-off place for those writers who wish, as Oates recommends, "to read widely, to read with enthusiasm, to read for pleasure, to read with an eye for another's craft." --Jane Steinberg