A Worker's Writebook: How Language Makes Stories

by Jack Matthews


Since the early 1990s, Jack Matthews has distributed a photocopied version of this 75,000 word writing guide to students in his fiction writing classes at Ohio University. This guide offers insight about how successful writers mold raw experiences into a story and how language helps you to do that. It offers lots of good examples and practical advice for getting a story idea off the ground; it analyzes several stories (including one of Matthews’ own) and offers several paradigms for understanding how stories work. Erudite, witty, idiosyncratic, serendipitous, mischievous, sesquipedalian, entertaining, introspective and colorful: these are adjectives which come to mind when reading this book.

86 year old author Jack Matthews has not only written more than 15 works of fiction, he was distinguished professor of Fiction Writing at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio for over 4 decades. Winner of Guggenheim and several arts grants, Matthews has been anthologized widely, translated into several languages and nominated for a National Book Award. His own books have been praised by Eudora Welty, Anthony Burgess, Shirley Ann Grau, Tim O’Brien, Doris Grumbach, Walker Percy and a host of other famous and highly accomplished authors.

"Mr. Matthews is a master of prose conversation and deadpan charm. He is ironic, cool, and shrewd, and he writes a lucid prose." (Tim O'Brien, New York Times)

"Matthews' always graceful prose finds that precise telling detail. It's easy to fall in love with such writing." (Perry Glasser, North American Review)

"Engaging wit and irony have been characteristic of Matthews's writing from the start, and both are strongly present in his latest gatherings of stories. His irony is increasingly darker, however, and his characters' obsession with memory and its distortions plays a more dominant role in this later work, much of which deals with death. For the most part, these are stories with deceptively simple and ordinary surfaces, but they are driven by powerful and ominous undercurrents, which often fuse the local and regional with the archetypal. Few can do it better. Without question, Matthews has established himself as one of America's finest storytellers." (Stanley Lindberg, editor, Georgia Review)

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