I first met Sandra Scofield over ten years ago. A visiting professor to my MFA program, Sandra was lauded for her unparalleled storytelling and a National Book Award Finalist (Beyond Deserving) as proof. To work with her, master students had to submit their stories and be accepted for one-on-one workshops. I had the great honor of being selected. I was working on my thesis, which would go on to be my first novel The Time It Snowed In Puerto Rico. At the time, however, I came to Sandra with only a handful of short stories set in 1960s Puerto Rico. She was loving but brutally honest in her critique. Her aim was not to foster her students’ egos. No participation trophies in Sandra’s satchel. The ultimate good of the story was paramount.
At the java shop that my fellow MFA-ers gathered, some lamented the criticism of our straightforward Montana mentor. But I’ve never been one for mollycoddling—giving or receiving. I took to the fierce twinkle in her editorial eye, and we forged a friendship through common understanding that it isn’t the author that earns praise or censure but the writing. It’s been over a decade now. I’ve lost touch with many of my MFA colleagues but my devotion to Sandra has only rooted deeper.
She came to visit me in Chicago last year. We had tea at the local indie bookstore, swapped stories, photos, laughs and books, of course. She shared her new novel Swim: Stories of the Sixties with me. The narrative mastery left me wonderstruck. So when she sent me the advanced copy of her new craft book (releasing December 5, 2017), I nearly tackled the mailman on delivery. St. Nick came early! And I was not disappointed.
The Last Draft is an invaluable guide to a novelists’ revision process. All the lessons I learned from Sandra for the last ten years are bow-tied and bound into this compelling resource. Author guru Janet Burroway (Writing Fiction) calls this “a needed book…” And I have every confidence it will be part of the creative writing canon.
So it is with great pleasure that I welcome Sandra to share her wisdoms with our Writer Unboxed community. [Read more…]