Master Class: Lessons from Leading Writers gathers more than two decades of wisdom from twenty-nine accomplished authors. It offers previously unpublished interviews along with freshly edited versions of ten interviews from Nancy Bunge’s well-received previous collection, Finding the Words.

The first section, Theory, incorporates interviews which document the golden age of writing programs in which authors with a strong sense of social and cultural responsibility taught as seriously as they wrote. These conversations delve into the writers’ philosophies and teaching methods. The second section, Practice, presents interviews with authors who discuss how they’ve approached the writing of particular works. Altogether the interviews introduce authors as inspirational models and provide insightful techniques for other writers to try.

One piece of advice recurs with striking consistency: to produce fresh, interesting work, aspiring writers must develop a passionate self-trust. This rule has an essential corollary: improving as a writer means constantly stretching oneself with new information and skills.

Sure to interest writing and literature teachers as well as writers at every stage of development, Master Class is highly recommended for undergraduate and graduate writing courses.

Interviews with Marvin Bell, Ivan Doig, Sandra Gilbert, Allen Ginsberg, Donald Hall, Jim Harrison, Etheridge Knight, Margot Livesey, Larry McMurtry, James Alan McPherson, Clarence Major, Bobbie Ann Mason, Sue Miller, N. Scott Momaday, Kyoko Mori, Thylias Moss, W. S. Penn, Kit Reed, Alix Kates Shulman, William Stafford, Wallace Stegner, Ruth Stone, Scott Turow, Katherine Vaz, Diane Wakoski, Anne Waldman, Richard Wilbur, Richard Yates, and Helen Yglesias.

“As a creative writing instructor who first entered the classroom a decade ago, I found Nancy Bunge’s interviews fresh, fascinating, and useful to me as a writer and teacher. Master Class will be of value to teachers at the college and graduate level, and of benefit to any MFA student who is interested in getting the most out of time in the classroom.”—Lan Samantha Chang, author of Hunger: A Novella and Stories and Inheritance
Master Class is many classes in one—or rather a patchwork-quilt comforter of good advice, surprises, wisdom, quirks, ponderables, and aha! moments. It can be read through or dipped into, both with benefit. I’ll want it handy on my shelf.”—Janet Burroway, author of Writing Fiction and Embalming Mom


Theory: Interviews with Writer-Teachers
Sandra Gilbert: Something My Life Can Teach Other People
Allen Ginsberg: You See Beauty and You Want to Share It
Donald Hall: We Should Try to Be as Good as Shakespeare
Etheridge Knight: A Poet Comes Out of the People
Clarence Major: Each Act of Writing Becomes a Whole New Experience
James Alan McPherson: There’s Nothing Like the Literary Imagination
N. Scott Momaday: I Grew Up in a Very Rich and Exotic World
Kit Reed: You Need to Write to Be a Writer
Alix Kates Shulman: I Place a Lot of Faith in That Private Searchlight
William Stafford: You’ve Got to Make the Decisions Yourself, If You’re an Artist
Wallace Stegner: If You’re Only a Copy of a Person, You Aren’t Going to Write Very Well
Ruth Stone: We Are Creative Creatures
Diane Wakoski: Good Writing Isn’t about Easy Things
Anne Waldman: Have Poetry Be a Practice
Richard Wilbur: I Don’t Know Whether You Can Do Justice to Yourself without Doing Justice to the World
Richard Yates: The Hardest and Loneliest Profession
Helen Yglesias: A Writer Works to Give the Reader a True Experience

Practice: Interviews with Authors About How They Work
Marvin Bell: I Want It to Be True
Ivan Doig: Getting It as Right as It Can Be Got
Jim Harrison: People with Curiosity Are Always Right out There
Margot Livesey: With Each Book, I’m Learning How to Write That Book
Bobbie Ann Mason: It’s This Impulse toward Order, the Pleasure of Discovering Design
Larry McMurtry: I Get Curious about a Group of Characters and I Start Investigating Them
Sue Miller: I Inhabit Each Character
Kyoko Mori: Those Moments of Clarity Are Little Gems
Thylias Moss: I Think That One Should Exist Trying to Be Aware of as Much as Possible
W. S. Penn: I Just Think I’m Really Lucky
Scott Turow: Nothing Is More Moving to Me Than What Happens in the Average Life
Katherine Vaz: Acquiescence to the Unknown Allows Writers to Stay Vital

Other Published Versions of Interviews

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216 pages, 6 x 9 inches