Deep Imagining with Molly Gloss

By Avis M. Adams

To help a story draw closer to what the writer intended, we ask: What is this writer doing, how is she doing it, why is he doing it, what is their story about?

As a national bestselling author and winner of the PEN West Fiction Prize, Molly Gloss is no stranger to using description effectively.

It’s not just the camera

For Molly, description is not merely the camera’s eye cataloging a set of details but as an integral part of a narrative. Think of the opening pages of The Grapes of Wrath, or Huck Finn’s description of morning on the river, or Ursula Le Guin’s description of the caves of Atuan. These passages deepen and advance their stories.

Spreading knowledge within writing communities

In workshops and guided studies, Molly found students “worried about losing their readers, losing momentum, if they spent too much time on description. Students who wanted to just get to the good stuff, the action, or the dialogue.”

But description can be part of the “good stuff.” From her experience, tackling a large section of description is a common challenge for writers struggling to find the nuances of their story. She hopes that this masterclass will help writers utilize description as a powerful tool to sharpen their ideas.

Molly has noted that Writing is ultimately a solitary art, but workshops are where we [writers] come together to collaborate.”

Let’s get descriptive!

If you’ve been working on your description, check out Molly Gloss’ Master Class at the Willamette Writers Conference.

Throughout the Master Class, Molly will offer thoughts and tools for how to use description, not as mere background, but as a vital part of our stories.

Participants will read passages from a variety of exemplary writers, and talk about how and why they hold our attention. Most importantly, writers will get to practice using these new tools and perspectives, writing from several prompts and sharing their work.

Deepening the imagination

We are beyond excited to host Molly Gloss. Her workshop will be a part of Willamette Writers Conference 2024, and will take place on August 2nd at 9am.

Join us and walk away with the tools for effective description, and maybe even the beginnings of new, deeply imagined stories. 

About Molly Gloss

Molly Gloss author photo

Molly Gloss is the author of six novels and a short story collection. Her novels include The Jump-Off Creek, which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award; The Dazzle of Day, winner of the PEN West Fiction Prize; and the national bestseller The Hearts of Horses. Her story collection, Unforeseen, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award in 2020.

Other honors include a Whiting Writers Award, an Oregon Book Award, multiple Pacific Northwest Booksellers Awards, the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Award for the short story.

She writes both realist fiction and science fiction. Her work, even within the science fiction/fantasy genre, often concerns or reimagines the landscape, literature, mythology, and history of the American West.

Find out more here.