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Off Campus Writers' Workshop - OCWW

Fred Shafer - The Experiments the Reader Doesn’t See ( Session 4)

  • September 24, 2020
  • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Remote


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Remote Session

“I think all writing is experimental,” the late Irish writer William Trevor once said.  “I experiment all the time but the experiments are hidden.” His words may surprise people who think of experimental writing and conventional writing as operating on separate tracks, especially when an experimental project is aimed at denying or ignoring any connection with real life. What could a writer like Trevor, whose short stories and novels are regarded as masterpieces of conventional and realistic fiction, have been getting at when he mentioned his experiments, and what can be learned from them?

In his four workshops, Fred Shafer will try to uncover the experiments that are hiding in Trevor’s fiction and in the work of some other contemporary writers who are also resourceful in meeting conventional objectives.  Each presentation will address potentials and needs that Fred is accustomed to seeing in manuscripts. He’ll show that, in the spirit of experimenting, you can bend or break the usual rules about such things as point of view, plot, structure, and the passage of time, in order to deepen the reader’s sense of the reality and meaning of your story or novel.

Fred’s presentations will be built around one or two of Trevor’s stories, with occasional references to his other stories and the work of other writers.  At each meeting, Fred will announce the main story he’ll use the following week, in case members of the audience would like to read it.  But reading ahead won’t be necessary, because a handout, with the excerpts he’ll discuss, will be emailed on the day before each meeting and a link to the handout will also be posted in the comments section.  Audience members are urged to bring the handout to the meeting.

Bio: Fred is a literary editor, writer, and teacher of writing.  He was an editor with TriQuarterly, the international literary journal published by Northwestern University, where he taught fiction writing in the School of Professional Studies for many years.  He presently leads three private workshops in short story and novel writing, from which his present and former students have published more than 250 stories and thirty novels and collections of stories.  His own essays, reviews, and interviews with writers have appeared in several periodicals.

Manuscript critiques are available only to OCWW members who have registered for the session to which a member is submitting. Using the Microsoft Word editing system, Fred will write comments on fiction manuscripts in all genres, for readers of all ages.  Manuscripts in Word, up to 20 pages, double-spaced, Times New Roman 12 pt font with 1 inch margins may be submitted via email to The fee is $3.00 per page. Manuscripts must be submitted and paid for before they will be sent to Fred. You will receive an invoice with a link to pay via paypal or credit card. If you do not receive an invoice within 36 hours of submission please let us know through another email to The deadline for Week 1 is August 20. For Week 2 it is August 27. For Week 3 it is September 3 and for Week 4 it is September 10.  The manuscripts will be returned later in the day on Thursday, but if Fred receives an overload of manuscripts, some may be returned by Friday or Saturday.

We offer a free discounted student membership with discounted session fees at $5.00 per session. You must send verification of your student status. Please contact Claudia Katz at for details.

9:00-9:30   Socializing

9:30-12:00  Program

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