Tommy Dean

Tommy Dean

Tommy Dean is the author of two flash fiction chapbooks, Special Like the People on TV (Redbird Chapbooks, 2014) and Covenants (ELJ Editions, 2021), and a full flash collection, Hollows (Alternating Current Press, 2022).  Two of his stories will be published in the 2023 edition of Best Microfiction. He lives in Indiana, where he currently is the Editor at Fractured Lit and Uncharted Magazine. A graduate of the Queens University of Charlotte MFA program, he is currently working on a second flash collection. A recipient of the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction, his writing can be found in Best Microfiction 2019, 2020 and 2023Best Small Fiction 2019 and 2022, Monkeybicycle, and the Moon City Review. He has taught writing workshops for the Gotham Writers Workshop, the Barrelhouse Conversations and Connections conference, and The Writers Workshop. Tommy’s students have published work in SmokeLong Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Maudlin House, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, New World Writing, Fictive Dream, 2021 Wigleaf Top 50 longlist, WOW! Women on Writing Spring 2021 Flash Fiction Contest winner, Bending Genres, jmww, Best Small Fictions 2021, The Los Angeles Review, Longleaf Review, and elsewhere. Find him at tommydeanwriter.com and on Twitter @TommyDeanWriter.

 What excites you about writing? How has it affected your life?

I love the challenge of starting with nothing but a line or image in my head and translating it to the page insight a small narrative space. I love the challenge of thinking of new ways to say things, to push language and pathos, to provide my readers with an experience of being on the stage of the story with my characters. I love getting to live multiple lives, to reveal my characters through action and brevity, to present something to ponder or wonder at on the page. Writing keeps me happy and centered. It allows me to express the sense of craft and narrative that runs through my thoughts, to solidify the live thrumming through me. It gives me a chance to communicate with myself and a world of readers. It’s exciting to make up stories, to create characters, to investigate life on the page!

What mindset does a writer need to continue to grow and learn? 

Knowing that your best writing is always possible every time you sit down to write. That we learn the most from getting out of our way and allowing ourselves to sit with the possibilities of the blank page. Writers learn by doing, but they also learn by reading, by studying stories that work, that shine with craft moves, that can inform our own writing our own willingness to take risks in our craft moves and our approaches to narrative. In order to grow, writers have to be flexible and willing to try something, and know that it might not work, that there is something that will work for each unique story if they are willing fail better, to study model texts and break apart their craft moves and apply them as needed and necessary to their own writing.

What makes a good writing mentor?

A good mentor provides the mentee space to take risks, to try new craft moves and fresh takes on structure and narrative, who can provide model texts that might provide inspiration to the mentee as they work on rough and final drafts. A good mentor provides space for the mentee to ask questions, to plumb their curiosities, to respond with compassion and expertise, to provide solace when the work is hard or not working, to inspire encourage the mentee to keep going, to push their strengths, and discover their weaknesses and study ways to improve in all areas of narrative craft. Mentors should provide specific and individual feedback that meets the writer where they are at and considering the challenges of the specific stories provided for feedback. My job is to help the mentee see new ways to approach their writing, to take risks, and to enjoy the process of writing.

What is your style of feedback?

I love to focus on the writer’s strengths, to provide as much positive feedback as possible while also showing places where the writer might be taking a risk or not digging deep enough into their characters and therefore not creating tension and resonance for the reader. I meet the writer where they are at in their writing journey and hope that the feedback, I provide will help them with individual stories, but also help them when writing future stories. I provide line-by-line comments as I’m reading, stopping to show when things are working and when things could use more attention or a different approach. My feedback comes with lots of examples from model texts. I provide my mentees with lots of examples stories and prompts when needed to see how other writers have tackled similar challenges! I bring in everything I’ve learned from in my own writing journey and remind the writers that I work with that I’m still in the trenches writing and submitting, and hopefully learning new approaches and craft moves as well. My feedback comes from a place of wanting to help the writer have more confidence in their ability to take risks, to write deeper, to feel inspired to do their best writing!

Narrative Statement

For most of us, writing is a lonely pursuit. We squirrel away time from loved ones and friends in order to spend time with the thoughts in our heads, hoping to transcribe them onto the blank page. This is followed by lots of revision, more time alone with our project, only to hopefully find someone willing to publish this work and share it with the wider world. A hedge against this loneliness is to find the writers among us, to share our passion, our thoughts, our resonance with these projects that we’ve created mostly alone. Writing classes can create a sense of community, a sense of belonging if only for a few hours.

Taking a class is a marker of good faith to yourself that you’re taking your writing seriously, that you believe in the ability to make your writing better, to make yourself better in the elements of craft, in the ability to perceive and see the world around you, to bring meaning, and resonance to your life, and hopefully to the lives of your readers. Writing well is a commitment, and taking a class safeguards the promise of your commitment.

Taking a class often pushes our unconscious thoughts or knowledge about craft elements to our conscious, where we can readily apply them to current or future projects. Writing, unfortunately, isn’t like riding a bicycle. It isn’t often a rote experience where we can rely on muscle memory alone. We must learn and relearn often the separate elements of craft to put the whole thing together to create a story, essay, or poem. What has worked before might not work in quite the same way, and learning from instructors and our peers, can bring fresh ideas to our projects, to our ideas about the use and tactics of each craft element.

Finally, hopefully, it’s fun or engaging or both. An opportunity to step out of the pressures of our busy lives. An opportunity for play and exploration, to get back to our imaginations. To create in a safe and inspiring environment. To do the good and necessary work of creating stories.

Early Bird Deadline for Winter Cohort: November 30 Apply-Now