What Makes a Short Story Publishable?

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How do you close the gap between the story inside your head and the one that’s on the page? Short Story Incubator instructor Ron MacLean shares the core ideas that drive a short story draft past “the last mile of the marathon that is writing a publishable short story.” Interested in learning more? Apply for the 2023-24 Short Story Incubator before the deadline on Monday, July 24, 2023.

July 6, 2023 | Ron MacLean

"A marriage is built of bones and teeth." Countdown to Muse 20 with Ron MacLean

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The Muse and the Marketplace 2020 will soon kick off on April 3rd in Boston! This year’s theme is “Imagination and Reality,” as many presenters are exploring the boundaries between fact and imagination, and how each contributes to great writing. Here, presenting authors have selected a passage from their own work, highlighting in green which elements came roughly from their direct experience, memory, or fact; while highlighting in blue which elements came from their imagination or speculation. Here is presenter Ron Maclean from his story “It Must Be Beautiful in Berlin This …

Ron MacLean

Grub News

The Sliding Scale of Narrative Distance

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Short Story Incubator instructor, Ron MacLean, shares his thoughts on use of narrative distance in fiction. Ready to take your short fiction to the next level? Join us on Wednesday, May 29th, 6:00-7:30pm for an informal Q&A session on our Short Story Incubator program. Instructor Ron MacLean will be there to answer any questions you have about the Short Story Incubator program. We'll give you all the information you need to know about the application process, what the program entails, the schedule, the philosophy behind our approach, and anything else on your mind.  


One of the fallacies I …

April 26, 2019 | Ron MacLean

Craft Advice


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Denis Johnson is one of those writers I read over and over, and learn something every time. I recently assigned his classic story “Emergency” to students, and suggested we analyze it in terms of plot. More specifically, through the lens of Charles Baxter’s notion of “Captain Happen.”

In his talk on “Momentum and Urgency” at the Muse and the Marketplace conference last May, Baxter listed half a dozen devices “to get a story going and keep it going.” Captain Happen was one of those, described as “a focusing agent that makes things happen.” I thought it would be interesting to …

September 26, 2015 | Ron MacLean

Craft Advice

The Power of Scary Stories

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Why am I drawn to scary stories? Because they're hard to write well, and challenge is always attractive to me. But also because fear is primal. Fear is part of who we are (or at least part of who I am), and I'm interested, more and more, in how people respond to what terrifies them. Psychological terror intrigues me most. I'm less interested in blood on the page than I am in perceived danger that might or might not be true

May 22, 2015 | Ron MacLean

Craft Advice