What do we actually mean when we call something cliché, whether in life or in art? How do we recognize it, why exactly should it be avoided, and what, for that matter, is the antidote? Our answers to these questions are arguably themselves cliché or, at the very least, incomplete. In this craft class, we’ll reconsider our common notions of what makes anything cliché and delve into the unexpected ways that clichés can affect our thinking, our imagination, our storytelling, and our everyday interaction with the world. And as writers we’ll discuss how to avoid and also make use of them in our language, in our characters and plots, in any of our ideas, so that we’re working toward the kind of truthfulness and honesty that will resonate with our ideal reader, no matter the genre, no matter how original or familiar anyone might find our work.
Vu Tran's first novel, Dragonfish, was a New York Times Notable Book and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Books of the Year. His writing has also appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories, the Best American Mystery Stories, Ploughshares, and Virginia Quarterly. He is the winner of a Whiting Award and an NEA Fellowship, and has also been a fellow at Bread Loaf, Sewanee, Yaddo, and MacDowell. Born in Vietnam and raised in Oklahoma, Vu received his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and his PhD from the Black Mountain Institute in Las Vegas. He teaches at the University of Chicago, where he is an Associate Professor of Practice in English and Creative Writing.