9 – 10:30 “Writing non-human narrators” with Claire Boyles
Storytelling has a long tradition of non-human narrators. Myths and fables are full of them, as is children’s literature—the Redwall series, for example, and Watership Down. In an interview about writing the natural world, Richard Powers made a case for centering the non-human in contemporary literary fiction as well: “I’m saying the contemporary literary novel has forgotten a third kind of dramatic conflict, which used to be at the heart and soul of most stories that we told ourselves. Not a person against their own self, or people against each other, but the hopes and fears and dreams of the entire human race trying to come to terms with all of the things that non-humans want.” In this workshop, we’ll read and discuss examples of non-human narrators that populate recent literary fiction from Powers, Deb Olin Unferth, and Ted Chiang, among others, and we’ll create and give voice to non-human characters of our own. While these characters may have essential and serious roles in our storytelling, we’ll approach this work with a spirit of experimentation and play.
Claire Boyles (she/her) is a writer, mom, and former farmer who lives and writes in Colorado. A 2022 Whiting Award winner in fiction, she is the author of Site Fidelity, which was longlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Award and the Best of the West Award and is a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Her writing has appeared in VQR, Kenyon Review, Boulevard, and Masters Review, among others. She is a Peter Taylor Fellow for the Kenyon Review Writing Workshops and has received support from the Kimmel Harding Nelson Foundation, the Bread Loaf Orion Environmental Writers Workshop, and the Community of Writers. She teaches in Eastern Oregon University’s low-residency MFA program in Creative and Environmental Writing.