Gregory Spatz

Program Director Gregory Spatz is the author of the novels InukshukFiddler’s Dream  and No One But Us, and of the story collections Half as Happy and Wonderful Tricks. His stories have appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Glimmer Train Stories, Shenandoah, Epoch, Kenyon ReviewNew England Review, and Zyzzyva. He has written for Poets and Writers, as well as The Oxford American. He is the recipient of a Michener Fellowship, an Iowa Arts Fellowship, a Washington State Book Award, and a 2012 NEA Fellowship in literature. Spatz also plays the fiddle in the twice 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, and being a step-dad to her two sons Tal and Angus.

Visit Greg’s website at gregoryspatz.com.

Read Greg’s article in Poets & Writers: “The Teachable Talent:  Why Creative Writing Can Be Taught”

Check out Greg’s interview with Kenyon Review.

Teaching Philosophy

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.

Program Statement

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.

Contact Gregory at: gspatz1@earthlink.net

Phone: 509.828.1310

Hours: M/W/Th 3pm-5pm & Friday by appointment only