Program Director Gregory Spatz is the author of the novels Fiddler's Dream and No One But Us, and of a story collection, Wonderful Tricks. His stories have appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Iowa Review, Shenandoah, The Santa Monica Review, Kenyon Review, and New England Review. He is the recipient of a Michener Fellowship, Iowa Arts Fellowship, Washington State Artist Trust Fellowship, Mid-List First Series Award, Washington State Book Award, and runner-up for the 2006 Glasgow Award in short fiction. Spatz also plays the fiddle in the JUNO-nominated bluegrass band John Reischman and the Jaybirds. When not on the road with the Jaybirds or busy at work teaching and writing, he enjoys playing music with his wife, Caridwen, also a fiddler, being a step-dad to her two sons Tal and Angus, and building a writing studio of rice hulls, barbed wire, recycled wine bottles, adobe and cement in the back yard.
Visit Greg's website at gregoryspatz.com.
Visit the website for Greg's band, The Jaybirds.
In my experience, becoming a good constructive critic/editor of other people's fiction is the first step to becoming a useful critic of your own work. It is the quickest way I know of, anyway, to begin understanding how to dismantle a piece of your own fiction and put it back together so it works better. Too, I've noticed that focusing more on constructive criticism than esthetic judgment in workshop tends to engender a working environment where students feel challenged and free to take risks. So, in all of my writing workshops, one thing I try to stress is this distinction between judgment and constructive criticism. Easy enough to look at a piece of fiction and draw conclusions based around your (mostly) esthetic reactions to it: this is trite and boring, I hate stories about teenagers, I hate voice-driven work, first person sucks.... In itself this sort of judgment does have limited value: it helps you to define your own esthetic; we all do it and it's a legitimate response to any piece of art. However, it's not so much use to the author of the piece whose work you're judging. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is criticism which focuses first on articulating a given story's own best possible potential, despite all flaws and inconsistencies; it involves an effort to see past your esthetic preferences so you may face a story on its own terms, whether or not you like it. Then, bearing in mind the text's best interests, it attempts to offer strategies for revision and editing.
What I like best about teaching at the Inland Northwest Center for Writers, is the sense of community. Maybe because of the genuine collegiality modeled by the faculty, there is a sense here that students support each other without any of the rancor or infighting so commonly present at writing programs. Not to say that our students don't push each other to succeed. They do. Only rarely does it feel as if one student's success or victory is perceived in the community as another student's loss or failure. It's a great, positive and challenging environment for learning—one I wish I'd known about as a grad student myself.