Summer Master Class

Dear Students,

On Tuesday, August 7th, our Housatonic Book Award winner in nonfiction, Peter Selgin, will lead a master class (see description below). Participants in this class will submit (in advance) first pages of their own works-in-progress. These first pages may be fiction or nonfiction, should be between 250 and 300 words long, and mailed as word.doc attachments no later than a week before the residency. From among submitted first pages, a selection will be duplicated and handed out during the seminar.

Please send your submissions to Peter at

In the Beginning: A First Page Seminar/Workshop

Readers are rude. While they have no obligation to read our stories, we’re obliged to claim and keep their interest. As soon as we set down the first words to a novel, memoir, or story, we begin creating a world, one with its own laws and limits. Line-by-line, we establish the covenants of that world for the reader and for ourselves, the rules to which we’ll be bound for the duration of the work, we lay down the laws of the worlds they will inhabit for as long as they keep reading. Or they’ll reject our worlds and go on about some other business.


In this seminar we’ll discuss the first pages of published works, anonymous unpublished works, and your own works-in-progress. We’ll examine great openings of works classic and contemporary, from DeFoe to Dickens to James M. Cain and Marilyn Robinson. We’ll look at fiction as well as nonfiction/memoirs, and discuss the thorny choices authors face in deciding how, when, and where to enter their stories. We’ll discover, too, how many if not most of the concerns raised by a work of narrative prose are embodied in its first 300 words, how a first page is a harbinger, the canary in the coal mine. Does it sing, or die?


Suggested reading: YOUR FIRST PAGE: first pages and what they tell us about the pages that follow them, by Peter Selgin

About Anthony D'Aries

Anthony D'Aries is the author of The Language of Men: A Memoir (Hudson Whitman Press, 2012), which received the PEN/New England Discovery Prize and Foreword's Memoir-of-the-Year Award. His essays have appeared in Boston magazine, Solstice, The Good Men Project, Shelf Awareness, The Literary Review, and have been finalists for Fourth Genre's Michael Steinberg Essay Prize and the Diana Wood's Memorial Creative Nonfiction Award. In 2011, Anthony was selected as Randolph College's Emerging Writer-in-Residence. He has served on the board of PEN/New England as a member of the Freedom-to-Write Committee, leading writing workshops in prisons, shelters, hospitals, and residential care facilities, and co-chairing the inaugural PEN Writing and Trauma Conference. Anthony received the 2014-15 Writers' Room of Boston's fellowship in nonfiction. In 2016, he was selected as the Lighthouse Writers Workshop's Fort Lyon writer in residence, where he taught writing workshops for homeless veterans. He currently directs the low-residency MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University.
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