Today we're excited to feature another one of our workshop instructors, author Thomas McNeely! A native of Houston, Texas, Thomas has received fellowships for his writing from the MacDowell Colony, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wallace Stegner Program at Stanford University, and the Dobie Paisano Program at the University of Texas at Austin. He has taught fiction writing at Stanford University, Emerson College, The University of New Hampshire, Inprint Houston, and Writespace. His short stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, Epoch, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and many other magazines and anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories and New Stories from the South; his stories have been short-listed for the O. Henry, Best American Short Stories, and Pushcart Prize. Ghost Horse, his first novel, received the Gival Press Novel Award, was a finalist for the Lascaux Prize in Fiction and was shortlisted for the 2016 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. He currently teaches at Emerson College, Boston, and the Stanford Online Writing Workshop, and is at work on a collection of linked stories set in Houston.
What book/story/poem have you read recently that you’re really excited about?
Love Me Back, by Dallas author Merritt Tierce, left me speechless; I've also enjoyed the novels Body and Bread, by San Antonio's Nan Cuba, and Mayhem, by Austin-based Elizabeth Harris. The poetry collection Nightbloom and Cenote, by Houston's own Leslie Contreras Schwartz, is a powerful collection.
How did you first enter the publishing industry?
I don't really consider myself part of the publishing industry. I teach fiction at the Stanford Online Writing Studio and literature and critical theory in the Emerson College Honors Program, and write and publish short stories. My stories have recently appeared in Epoch and Crazyhorse magazines.
How do you replenish your creative well?
Teaching actually feeds my creative process, because I get to engage with the possibilities that stories offer, which is limitless.
What would you tell your younger (15-year-old) self?
Read more, get out of your own head, and put your work out in front of an audience. When I was 15, I was in a punk rock band in Houston, and one of my regrets is not playing a show at the Lawndale Arts Annex, which was within walking distance of where I grew up. I also only went to see one show there, The Meat Puppets, which was a riot masquerading as a show, which is what rock and roll should be. I wish that I had spent more time at the Cabaret Voltaire, the legendary all-ages club downtown.
What advice would you give to new writers just starting to write their first book?
Write about something that other people will be interested in reading.
Want to hear more from Thomas McNeely at Writefest? His schedule will be posted on our website soon, and he's also teaching our Literary Fiction workshop this year - spaces are going fast, so get your soon!
Be sure to secure your tickets to Writefest if you haven’t already