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Celebrating our 20th: An Interview with long-time fiction instructor, Chris Belden

Updated: Feb 7

1.) How long have you been teaching with WWW and what was your first workshop?


My memory is ominously spotty, but I think I started at WWW somewhere around 2013 or so—Valerie Ann Leff had recently become the Executive Director. My first workshop must have been a Beginners-level group. I remember it took a while for some of those early workshops to catch on—sometimes we didn’t get enough people signed up—but eventually, it started working. The Beginners kept coming back, which meant at some point we needed to transition the workshop to an “Intermediate” level, which eventually became an “Advanced” workshop. Now I run two Advanced workshops (at least one of those original Beginners is still in the group!), and I recently started running a new Beginners group because I missed the fun of watching new writers learning and growing as writers. 


2.) What (if anything) has changed since you started teaching here?

The biggest change, of course, was the switch to virtual workshops at the start of the COVID pandemic. Prior to that, we met in person at the old WWW offices. Liz Matthews and the board did an incredible job of keeping the workshops going online, and we all discovered that not only was this doable, but we could actually expand the number of people who participate. Folks from all over the country—or the world—can now attend our workshops. And I saved a ton on gas by not driving to Westport twice a week.

3.) What is your favorite part about teaching creative writing?

I love watching writers discover their voices through the courageous act of writing every week. Eventually, if they keep putting their rear ends in the chair, they end up with a novel or story collection. When that happens, I feel a bit like a midwife.


4.) Do you have a favorite book on craft that you keep returning to? Or a novel or story or essay that has held up over the years?

There are so many books on writing now that it’s overwhelming. At this point in my life, I find that most of them aren’t adding anything new for me personally, but for writers starting out, I always recommend Stephen King’s ON WRITING. It’s by far King’s best book, in my humble opinion, and his down-to-earth attitude about writing is refreshing after reading so many books that tout writing as some kind of quasi-religious calling. 

5.) What is your advice for people thinking about taking a workshop?

My advice is to go for it and try to have fun. Writing is hard enough without making the experience even more torturous! 



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