Pete Fromm is a five-time winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Literary Award for his novels If Not for This, As Cool As I Am, and How All This Started; a story collection, Dry Rain; and the memoirs, Indian Creek Chronicles and The Names of the Stars, which won the Evans Handcart Award for excellence in biography and a Montana Book Award. As Cool As I Am is also a feature film starring Claire Danes, James Marsden, and Sarah Bolger, and Dry Rain is a short film starring James LeGros and Nathan Gamble. Pete is the author of four other short story collections and has published over two hundred stories in magazines. His most recent novels, A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How To Do (2019), and Lake Nowhere (Le Lac De Nulle Part, 2022), are both bestsellers in France. He lives in Montana and speaks regularly at writer’s conferences around the country and in Europe.
Thoughts on Workshop: The workshop is a safe place to talk about how to improve not just this handful of stories, but all of our writing in general, learning the very difficult task of self-editing and revising your own work through the slightly less difficult task of putting another’s work under the microscope and figuring out what makes it tick, what works, and what doesn’t.
I will treat your stories exactly as I treat my own, looking for everything I can work on more, improve, cut, add, clean up, and, more than that, I’ll pick up on things I see that can expand beyond the story to the group. And I’ll ask for you to do the same. The more seriously you take the stories that aren’t yours, the more seriously and competently you’ll begin to see your own work. So, in advance of workshop, really read these stories, mark them up, see what leads to their joys and what may have caused spots that didn’t quite work for you. In the margins, your comments will mostly be on the sentence level, but then go deeper with end notes on the story as whole. Those end notes are like a letter to the author articulating what you find most essential, interesting, and effective about the manuscript, as well as any questions or suggestions you have about how the author might improve it. If you write these carefully, they’ll teach you as much about fiction writing as they teach the author about their manuscript; they also help build lasting friendships between you and your MFA peers.
I’ve always told my workshops that anything aggressive or demeaning or counterproductive would not be tolerated, warned that I’d come down with the wrath of avenging angels on any such behavior, yet, in my many years in this program, I’ve never once had to do any such thing. I think you’ll find yourself in a safe, welcoming, sincere group of fellow writers, all of us just trying to improve our writing. We’re in this together, taking the writing seriously, but maybe ourselves a bit less so. Being willing to relax and laugh at ourselves sometimes is a great help.