Visiting Writer Chris Bachelder Teaches Pacing and Patience in Prose

Fiction Spring 2015by Eric Rubeo, English Department student ambassador  

"This week is about pacing and slowing down, as both writers and readers" Chris Bachelder, visiting writer and professor, told a room of MA creative writing students. "Let's think of pacing and patience as a quality of prose, not just the writer."

Chris Bachelder, author of four novels and professor of creative writing at the University of Cincinnati, returned to Miami University as the instructor of the annual fiction sprint week for the third time since 2005. This fall, his topic was pacing in fiction and learning how to explore the scene for a fuller, more honest effect. 

Bachelder (center, in white) leading a graduate fiction workshop.

"Writers feel a pressure to speed everything up," Bachelder said during the first sessions. "I want us to develop a voice in our head to combat that, to tell us it’s okay to slow down."  

The course met daily from October 12 through October 16 to discuss novels and shorter works from the likes of Raymond Carver to Mary Robison to Tobias Wolff. Students were invited to think of how carefully selected and vivid details bring the scene and characters to life, and how writers moving too fast often miss the chance to imagine these details and therefore fail to bring the story to life.

MA creative writing student Chris Maggio said the weeklong experience was "Mesmerizing. His attention to craft was incredible."

Bachelder also met individually with MA students for conferences concerning manuscripts sent to him ahead of time.  These conferences allowed students a unique one-on-one opportunity to speak on both issues within the individual pieces and broader personal concerns about writing.

"It was nice to have someone talk about fiction with such an enthusiastic openness to conversation," said Amanda Seifert, a BA/MA creative writing student.

During his stay in Oxford, Bachelder also met with the undergraduate creative writing capstone course to continue this conversation on patience and pacing in prose. "Being patient is generative; it helps you discover and deal with the unknown," he said.

On Tuesday, Bachelder gave a public reading from his forthcoming novel, The Throwback Special. Referencing his own lectures on pacing, Bachelder began by joking, "It takes fifty pages for the guys to check into the hotel." Brie Moore, sophomore creative writing and biology double major called the passage he read both "hilarious and moving."

Be on the lookout for the release of The Throwback Special in the spring. In the meantime, copies of two of Bachelder’s other novels—Abbot Awaits and Bear v. Shark—are on sale at the Miami University Bookstore.

Chris Bachelder