Johanna DeBiase discusses her New Fiction intensive: Taos Writers Conference

The very first Taos Writers Conference is coming! The weekend of March 10-12, 2017 will bring a bevy of intensives, workshops, lectures, and discussions all celebrating the written word. Local author Johanna DeBiase is one of the teachers slated for an intensive; her topic is New Fiction: Writing in the digital age. The class will explore how the landscape of the written word is changing and will encourage participants to explore new ways of expressing their ideas. Registration is available to both conference attendees and the general public. For more information and to register, visit the Taos Writers Conference website.

Mel A. James, Live Taos contributor interviewed Johanna Debiase about what we can expect from her day-long intensive workshop featured this year during the Taos Writers Conference.

It sounds like your workshop is about embracing our changing technologies, and working within those parameters, instead of adhering to traditional media and methods.

The internet age has changed the narrative form. More and more literary journals are going online, even the old-school ones that have been in print for decades have a digital edition. Editors seek writing suited to the digital form, thus the onset of new fiction.

Jennifer Egan’s 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Goon Squad, is probably one of the first examples of new fiction that I can think of with a section formatted like a Power Point printout.

The description for your class says, “We’ll abandon standard formulas and explore various unique arrangements of narrative.” Can you talk more about the specific “unique arrangements” you and the students will be exploring? In other words, will you be incorporating hashtags, texting, email, etc? Or is more about style?

In this class, we will explore ways in which we can mimic contemporary digital forms to create a story. This includes using text messages, hashtags, twitter posts and “listicles.”

Are you challenging the students to upend their ideas about proper structure and/or grammar?

These methods will require writers who are used to writing traditional narratives to rethink the components of a story like characters, imagery and setting.

It seems like you’re advocating a more accepting approach to changes in our language. Do you think there is a lot of resistance to changing ways of writing/speaking/communicating?

I think of writers as being a malleable group of creatives, willing to modify and experiment. Traditionalists exist in any medium, of course. Though it does help to have some knowledge of social media before you show up to class, it is not necessary. I will give examples for people to follow.

Was it a dramatic shift for you to start employing these techniques in your own work? Or was it a natural move for you?

I started writing flash fiction about seven years ago and teaching flash about five years ago. I think from there the shift to different modes of new fiction flowed naturally as the narrative rules are similar. That’s why I plan to start the class with flash fiction.

I will also provide students with a list of outlets that accept new fiction for publication in case they are interested in submitting their work.

Do you recommend students bring any works-in-progress, or should they start fresh with a new project?

I recommend students start fresh with an open mind to new possibilities and the spirit of adventure.

How does it feel to be a part of the inaugural writer’s conference?

I feel honored to be a part of the inaugural Taos Writers Conference, especially being among the roster of highly accomplished authors in our midst. It’s great that they are highlighting local writers. SOMOS is such an amazing Taos institution and I hope people continue to take advantage of all that they offer, which is a lot.

Taos Writers Conference

the inaugural taos writers conference is hosted by somos and takes place march 10-12, 2017. in the coming weeks, Live taos will be bringing you more interviews with our local authors featured during this epic event.

oh, and if you’re interested…. what are you waiting for!? Do sign up!


Slideshow Photo Credit: Michael Benenav