Christine Schutt

Seminar in Getting Quickly to the Trouble: First Sentences from Christine Schutt’s Nightwork

1. She brought him what she had promised, and they did it in his car, on the top floor of the car park, looking down onto the black flat roofs of buildings, and she said, or thought she said, “I like your skin,” when what she really liked was the color of her father’s skin, the mottled white of his arms and the clay color at the roots of the hairs along his arms.

2. I once saw a man hook a walking stick around a woman’s neck.

3. She was out of practice, and he wanted practice, so they started kissing each other, and they called it practicing, this kissing that occused him.

4. I date an old man, a man so old, I am afraid to see what he is like under his clothes. READ MORE >

Craft Notes / 12 Comments
October 16th, 2010 / 10:00 am

Night of the Week of The Lifted Brow, Part 1

Friends, I am incredibly excited and thrilled to announce that this week we will be posting stories from the current issue of The Lifted Brow, fantastic Australian biannual that you must know about if you don’t already. We’ll start things off with a GIANT favorite- the great Christine Schutt.  Her story is called:

L I T T L E  C A Y M A N

The six-seater plane wobbled onto a back-lot ugly island leeched of colour, the shrubbery burnt. The airstrip was no longer than a city block. The passengers, all three, measured most distances by city blocks. Two men and a woman, they were from New York and travelling together. They were past youth but anyone’s guess how near old age. The woman put out a hand to be helped from the plane, but once on the ground, her manner was hectic. Surely being short, with its many disadvantages, had made her this way. The oldest of the passengers—if grey hair counted—was called Danny. “Danny,” asked the woman, “Shouldn’t there be someone here to greet us?” And the other man, who had no distinguishing features and was not addressed by name, reassured the woman that a ride to the club had been arranged.

“I’m glad somebody thought ahead,” the woman said.

“We’re here by invitation,” Danny said. But the sky was a haze that pressed down on them, and the low, unvarying vegetation was yet another of the island’s limitations. Brittle grasses broke underfoot; the windsock sighed. “So,” Danny said, “this is Little Cayman and that,” he said, “must be our ride.”

Even as the prop plane puttered up and away, a predacious jeep in camouflage was suddenly bounding toward them. The driver’s prominent knees knocked around as he jounced nearer, waving extravagantly, in a manic shirt, shouting, “What took you so long?”

The three travellers only saw who it was when the driver was rattling in neutral: here was Uncle Johnny come for them agrin—and it made sense to the three travellers, now they understood the windburned landscape, the breathless heat.

Uncategorized / 8 Comments
January 19th, 2010 / 10:40 am

Let’s All Fall In Love With C.E. Morgan

all-the-livingWhat do I know about C.E. Morgan? Not much. Basically, three things. (1) She wrote a novel called All The Living. (2a) Christine Schutt chose her as one of the “5 under 35” thing that the National Book Awards does. To me a Schutt recommendation is as good as gold, and knowing that one of my favorite authors admires this book is enough to make me want to own it immediately. Anyway, from the NBA page I also know that she (2a) has a master’s in theology, and (2b) is beautiful.  (3a) She wrote this essay for Largehearted Boy where she provides an expansive introduction to classical music, which I have been desperate for someone to provide me with for some time. (3b) Here’s a short story called “Over By Christmas” that was published in the New York Times last year. So cheers to you, C.E.! Glad to know (of) you. Will report back to ya’ll re the book as soon as there’s something to say.

Author Spotlight / 2 Comments
November 19th, 2009 / 1:35 pm

Creative Writing 101


For people who are following this series, I’m starting to think that it will make the most sense to post 1 per week, on Friday, which will cover both meetings of the class during that week (on Tues & Thurs nights). To come home and do the Tuesday post that same night or the next day would be too much, besides which if the class is actually checking in here, it might feel a little too rapid-response. I’d rather let the whole week play out, then do the post-game and give everyone (me, them, you) the weekend to mull it over and/or forget it ever happened. So that’s the new plan, and here we are with the field reports from 9/15 (Schutt & Dickinson) and 9/17 (more Berman, Percy Shelley, and a writing exercise). And for people who are just coming to the series now, the first two installments are here (1) and here (2). Everyone else, I’ll see you after the jump.


Uncategorized / 28 Comments
September 18th, 2009 / 1:30 pm

My Favorite Author Signature


Aside from the signatures that a few of my writer-friends have written to me in their own books, my favorite author signature is the above greeting from Christine Schutt in her collection Nightwork.

I had admired Schutt’s writing for a while, and then had the neat opportunity to take a workshop from her at Sewanee. Her way of talking about language (about which Justin has already posted) and how she applied her careful sensibilities to a few of my own stories really helped me become aware of my own sentences in new ways. Simply to be able to speak and work with her after having read and reread Nightwork and A Day, A Night, Another Day, Summer was incredible.

As a result, hers is the signature that means the most to me.

What about you? Feel free to email a pic if you have one, so I can add it to the post. Or share in the comments. Also, Jacket Copy has a similar post on author signatures and a gallery of photos. Send them pics too? You can also click over to this page of scanned author signatures if you’d like to get some ideas.

Here’s another signature, this one sent in by Blake: Gordon Lish.


Random / 24 Comments
August 5th, 2009 / 12:00 am

Christine Schutt on the NYFA Chalkboard

What a happy thing to stumble upon! Christine Schutt–NOON editor, 2009 Pulitzer prize finalist, all-around badass–has written a short essay for the New York Foundation for the Arts website, about her work as a creative writing teacher at the Nightingale-Bamford school for girls. It’s a great piece about teaching, but there’s also a highly informative craft essay tucked inside it.

Another gift afforded the writer in teaching is the opportunity to read aloud to students and thus discover the flat places in stories—what material a writer might have profitably cut out. Reading aloud to a room full of students, who are often hungry and tired, has made me acutely aware of what holds a reader’s attention. I read my own work aloud to myself, of course, and pay attention to the moments I rush through and dream past, for these should be deleted.

I’m in complete agreement with Christine on this. I think reading one’s own work aloud is an essential part of the writing process. When something has been through enough drafts, I print it out and do an edit by ear, while listening to myself. The rule is: if I can’t say it in the world the way I’m hearing it said in my head, then it’s not done being written yet. And as a teaching tool, it’s incredibly useful for any kind of writing. Last semester, about mid-way through the course, I started encouraging my 101 students at Rutgers start reading their comp papers aloud to themselves, and the ones that did it improved measurably in areas like grammar, syntax, and overall coherence. What happened, I think, was that they heard with their ears what they couldn’t hear with their eyes. Once they saw the spread between what they thought they’d written and what they’d actually produced, they were in a position to start working on how to close the gap. Plus, that work to re-write sonorously forced them to do another whole revision. I think next semester everyone will be forced to do it from the get-go. But enough about me. Go read Christine’s essay.

Author Spotlight & Craft Notes / 29 Comments
July 31st, 2009 / 12:42 pm


Cover to Cover: NOON, Part 3

(Previous entries in this series: Part 2, Part 1.)

It’s been a long couple of weeks for me, slogging toward the end of my teaching semester. I’m coming to you live right now from the basement of Murray Hall, New Brunswick NJ, for probably the last time until September. It’s a nice little office, as windowless cold rooms go, but I can’t say I’ll be sorry to be apart from it all summer. Anyway. Yesterday I finished grading my students’ last homework papers, and in a half hour I give them their final, which I spend all of tonight and tomorrow grading, so I can be done by Wednesday. What does all this mean? It means that I had a bit of time this morning to actually read something that wasn’t student work. So I whipped out my copy of NOON, uncapped my Krispy Kreme coffee, settled into my window seat, and picked up where I left off.


May 5th, 2009 / 1:44 pm