Skip to content
Stephen Jones, English literature professor at the University of Colorado, is teaching a class where grad students will be able to interact with authors on Skype, an online video chat site.
Paul Aiken
Stephen Jones, English literature professor at the University of Colorado, is teaching a class where grad students will be able to interact with authors on Skype, an online video chat site.

Class reading list and authors

Donald Ray Pollack, “Knowckemstiff”

Holly Goddard, “Girl Trouble”

Judy Budnitz, “Nice Big American Baby”

Matt Bell, “How They Were Found”

Blake Butler, “Scorch Atlas”

Brian Evenson, “Fugue State”

Joe R. Lansdale, “The Bottoms”

A professor at the University of Colorado is going straight to the source to help educate his creative writing students this spring.

Stephen Jones, CU English professor and horror author, is connecting the 10 graduate students in his creative writing workshop with the authors of their required readings.

“It would cost a lot of money to fly them out here and pay for their stay so they could come talk to my class,” Jones said. “So we’re using Skype — an online video chat site — to talk to the authors about their books. They’ll still get to have the same discussion, but this way it’s free.”

There are seven required readings for the class and so far Jones has confirmed five of the authors and said he is confident that the other two will participate as well.

“As far as I know, this is the first time this has been done,” Jones said.

While other classes have brought local authors or guest speakers into the classroom on occasion, Jones’ class will allow his students to talk to authors from all over the country.

Fiction novelist Blake Butler, 31, will discuss his book “Scorch Atlas” with the students from his home in Atlanta.

Butler said he’s hoping to give the students a fresh perspective on how to get through the publishing process from someone who had to discover it for himself. And while he said he’s excited to give the students feedback about the creative and business sides of publishing, he’s also looking forward to a little constructive criticism about his own work.

“I love the criticism,” Butler said. “In a workshop class like this, criticizing other people’s work is a big part of it and I actually think every perspective is worthwhile. I relish that.”

Jones said he is hoping to provide students with various perspectives about the business and marketing side of fiction, something few students are prepared for by graduation.

“I went into it blind with my first book,” Jones said. “It took getting two books published to get the process down and I feel like we don’t really prepare students for that business side of things.”

Students will also discuss “Fugue State” with fiction novelist Brian Evenson, 44, a professor at Brown University and former University of Denver professor.

Evenson has written nine fiction novels and one critical book and said he’s hoping to bring the “reality of writing” to Jones’ students this spring.

“I’d like to make writers seem like real people to them rather than someone distant or on a pedestal,” Evenson said. “I would like to give them more of a sense that they can be writers themselves.”

Robert Emigh, third-year graduate student at CU, said he’s excited about speaking with the authors of his assigned readings, especially Evenson, one of his personal favorites.

“I have some of his words tattooed on me actually,” Emigh said. “I have spoken to Evenson before, but I’m really looking forward to discussing his book more in depth.”

Emigh said he’s not surprised that Jones is using some less than conventional ideas to help teach his students.

“He’s always thinking about new and innovative things,” Emigh said. “He’s a great teacher and I think this class could a good way for students to improve their writing and start understanding the publishing process better, getting such a range of perspectives.”

Jones said by allowing the students to interact with the authors, he’s hoping they’ll become more engaged in the material and read the books more closely.

“It’s not the best way of doing things,” Jones said. “It’s just a different way.

“I do think there is potential for getting students more involved,” he said “That’s the goal.”

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.