My most valuable teaching tool is the work itself, whether it's a piece of student writing, or the published work of a seasoned author. I'm interested in how and why a piece of fiction engages the reader, and I ask my students to consider what elements make a story and lead them to feel a certain way. I ask them where the engagement is happening on the page, and what dynamic is taking place between the reader and the words. This search is often where the student, transferring this consideration to his own work, discovers what his story is really about. This exploration, if we take a risk and allow it to, will lead the writer to discover the truth in and about his own writing.
I stress revision as the time when a piece of work finds its form and meaning, and when all the elements of fiction we talk about in seminars and workshops and submissions come together to serve the story. Revision - that process of chipping away, fine-tuning, and rethinking - is also about looking at the language and considering the cadence and the music of the writing. It's during revision that we feel ourselves itching to leave the work and run away, but it's those drops of sweat, that racing heart, that lets us know we're about to get to the true and genuine stuff.