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Lance Olsen

Article posted on Thursday, April, 26th, 2012 at 8:00 am
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Interviewed by Hubert O’Hearn

LANCE OLSEN was born in 1956 and received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin (1978, honors), his M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers Workshop (1980), and his M.A. (1982) and Ph.D. (1985) from the University of Virginia. Heis author of eleven novels, one hypertext, four critical studies, four short-story collections, a poetry chapbook, and two anti-textbooks about innovative writing, as well as editor of two collections of essays about innovative contemporary fiction. His short stories, essays, poems, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of journals, magazines, and anthologies, including Conjunctions, Black Warrior Review, Fiction International, Iowa Review, Hotel Amerika, Village Voice, Time Out New York, BOMB, Gulf CoastMcSweeney’s, and Best American Non-Required Reading. Olsen is a Guggenheim and an N.E.A. fellowship recipient, winner of a Pushcart prize, and former governor-appointed Idaho Writer-in-Residence. His novel Tonguing the Zeitgeist was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award. His work has been translated into Italian, Polish, Turkish, Finnish, and Portuguese. He has taught at the University of Idaho, the University of Kentucky, the University of Iowa, the University of Virginia, on summer- and semester-abroad programs in Oxford and London, on a Fulbright in Finland, at various writing conferences, and elsewhere. Olsen currently teaches experimental narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah. He serves as Chair of the Board of Directors at Fiction Collective Two; founded in 1974, FC2 is one of America’s best-known ongoing literary experiments and progressive art communities. He is Fiction Editor atWestern Humanities Review. With his wife, assemblage-artist and filmmaker Andi Olsen, he divides his time between Salt Lake City and the mountains of central Idaho.

Ideal for individual or classroom use, ARCHITECTURES OF POSSIBILITY theorizes and questions the often unconscious assumptions behind such traditional writing gestures as temporality, scene, and characterization; offers various suggestions for generating writing that resists, rethinks, and/or expands the very notion of narrativity; visits a number of important concerns/trends/obsessions in current writing (both on the page and off); discusses marketplace (ir)realities; hones critical reading and manuscript editing capabilities; and strengthens problem-solving muscles from brainstorming to literary activism. Exercises and supplemental reading lists challenge authors to push their work into self-aware and surprising territory. In addition, ARCHITECTURES OF POSSIBILITY features something entirely lacking in most books about creative writing: more than 40 interviews with contemporary innovative authors, editors, and publishers (including Robert Coover, Lydia Davis, Brian Evenson, Shelley Jackson, Ben Marcus, Carole Maso, Scott McCloud, Steve Tomasula, Deb Olin Unferth, Joe Wenderoth, and Lidia Yuknavitch) working in diverse media, providing significant insights into the multifaceted worlds of experimental writers’ writing.

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