Lit Fest 2024: Visiting Authors at a Glance: Fiction

Lit Fest 2024: Visiting Authors at a Glance-Fiction

Check out the summaries below to learn more about this year's all-star lineup of fiction instructors.

Steve Almond

"As a writer, I've always believed in pushing boundaries, challenging norms, and questioning everything. My work often combines personal narratives with a broader commentary on our shared society and culture. I strive to shine a light on the unseen, the overlooked, and the misunderstood. I hope my words, like a lens, can offer you new perspectives."
Steve is the author of eleven books of fiction and nonfiction, including New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football, and the forthcoming Truth is the Arrow, Mercy is the Bow, a book on the writer's craft (to be celebrated at Lighthouse in March). After many failed efforts, his debut novel, All the Secrets of the World, came out in 2022. The book has been optioned by 20th Century Fox, and based on an excerpt, Almond was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Almond co-hosted the Dear Sugars podcast with his pal Cheryl Strayed for four years, and teaches Creative Writing at the Neiman Fellowship at Harvard and Wesleyan.

At Lit Fest, Steve is teaching The BS Detector, a weeklong short prose workshop on writing as decisionmaking.

What has been inspiring you lately in your work? "My students! True story. Not just making that up. I often get stuck in my own head, with its achingly familiar anxieties and complaints. The best way to get out of my head is to experience the creative process of someone else. And that’s what happens (on the good days) in my classes. My students are so thrillingly alive, curious, eager to get at the meaning of their lives. They write such beautiful, heartfelt pieces. And I totally get re-inspired. Like, I start to remember why I was drawn to writing. Which is ironic, because my job is the light the fire within them—not the other way around."

What’s your workshop style, and what can people expect at Lit Fest? "I’d say my vibe is: wildly enthusiastic and kind of intense. I’m a big believer in getting to the rock bottom truth as quickly as possible. But to do that, especially in a workshop, everyone has to feel safe. They have to KNOW that the other writers, and the teacher, understand what they’re trying to do, and recognize where they’re doing it well. We spend a lot of time praising the writer’s best decisions, because the whole goal is to bring all the writing up to that level. Criticism can only be heard as constructive if it feels like it’s offered from a place of respect, admiration, and inspiration."


Danielle Evans

Danielle Evans transitions passions for anthropology and African American studies into her contemporary fiction in a post-Civil Rights America. Evans opens discussions about the children of the Civil Rights Movement and their struggles to find a place within their families and communities, especially when their loyalties to place, to family, and to self are often divided. She also speaks on the continuum of American history intersecting with race, gender, and class, and how often history is reshaped for the sake of comfort over truth. (1)
Danielle Evans is the author of the story collections The Office of Historical Corrections and Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. Her first collection won the PEN American Robert W. Bingham Prize, the Hurston-Wright award for fiction, and the Paterson Prize for fiction; her second won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize and was a finalist for The Aspen Prize, The Story Prize, The Chautauqua Prize, and The Los Angeles Times Book prize for fiction. 

At Lit Fest, Danielle is teaching Finding the Subterranean Story, a weeklong fiction workshop on what lurks beneath the surface of our stories.

Vanessa Hua

Vanessa Hua is an award-winning author and columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Her short story collection, Deceit and Other Possibilities (2016), received an Asian/Pacific American Award in Literature, was a finalist for a California Book Award, and O, The Oprah Magazine called it a “searing debut.” She is also the author of A River of Stars (2018) a powerful novel about motherhood, immigration, and identity. She is also the author of the novel Forbidden City (2022).

For two decades, Hua has been writing about Asia and the diaspora, filing stories from China, Burma, Panama, South Korea, and Ecuador. She began her career at the Los Angeles Times before heading east to the Hartford Courant. Her stories have appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Magazine, Washington Post, The Atlantic, and Newsweek, among other publications.

At Lit Fest, Vanessa is teaching Open Sesame—Crafting Compelling Openings, a weekend fiction intensive on how our first ten pages cast a spell that carry our readers through our work.

Alexandra Kleeman

Alexandra Kleeman is the author of the novel Something New Under the SunIntimations, a short story collection, and the novel You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine, which was awarded the 2016 Bard Fiction Prize and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice. In 2020, she was awarded the Rome Prize and the Berlin Prize, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fiction in 2022.
Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Zoetrope, Conjunctions, and Guernica, among others, and other writing has appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, VOGUE, Tin House, n+1, and The Guardian. Her work has received fellowships and support from Bread Loaf, Djerassi, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Headlands Center for the Arts.

At Lit Fest, Alexandra is teaching Make it Work, a weekend fiction intensive about our lingering unfinished works and how to reclaim them.

Amitava Kumar

Amitava Kumar is a writer and journalist. He was born in Ara, and grew up in the nearby town of Patna, famous for its corruption, crushing poverty and delicious mangoes. He has published several works of nonfiction and three novels. His most recent title, The Blue Book: A Writer's Journal, is a collection of drawings and journal entries. Kumar's writing has appeared in Granta, The New York Times, Harper’s, Guernica, The Nation and several other publications. He has been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship and residencies from Yaddo, MacDowell, and the Lannan Foundation. His novel Immigrant, Montana was on the best of the year lists at The New Yorker, The New York Times, and President Obama’s list of favorite books of 2018. His new novel A Time Outside This Time was described by The New Yorker magazine as “a shimmering assault on the Zeitgeist.” Kumar is a professor at Vassar College in upstate New York. 

At Lit Fest, Amitava is teaching How to be Authentic, a weeklong advanced prose workshop focused on breathing real life into our work.

Claire Messud

"[Claire Messud's] characters have been called 'difficult women.' She would say they are simply women with desires." - The New York Times Magazine

Claire Messud is the author of six works of fiction, including her upcoming This Strange and Eventful History (May 2024). A recipient of a Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her family.

At Lit Fest, Claire is teaching Truth in Fiction, a weeklong advanced fiction workshop about finding false notes in the music of our stories.

Jenny Offill

Offill's 2020 novel, Weather, is the story of confronting, both directly and less so, looming climate catastrophe. The book was described as “emotional, planetary, and very turbulent, “ by the New York Times, “utterly exhilarating in its wit and intelligence” by the Boston Globe, and “darkly funny and urgent” by NPR. Her preceding novel, Dept. of Speculation, was named one of the 10 best books of 2014 by the New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, the Boston Globe, and many others. It was shortlisted for the Folio Prize, the Pen Faulkner Award, and the International Dublin Award. She is also the author Last Things, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the L.A. Times First Book Award.


At Lit Fest, Jenny is teaching How to Pay Attention, a weeklong advanced fiction workshop about transforming small, habitual moments through focus and attention.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s most recent book is the story collection, The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You (One World, 2021), a New York Times Editor’s Choice, a finalist for the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and longlisted for the Story Prize. His first book, We Cast a Shadow (One World, 2019) was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the PEN America Open Book Prize. It was longlisted for the 2021 DUBLIN Literary Award, the Center for Fiction Prize, and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. The novel was also a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Ruffin is the winner of several literary prizes, including the Iowa Review Award in fiction and the William Faulkner–William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Award for Novel-in-Progress. His next novel is The American Daughters, which will be published by One World in February 2024. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the LA Times, the Oxford American, Garden & Gun, Kenyon Review, and Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America

At Lit Fest, Maurice is teaching Fiction Worth Writing, a generative, weeklong advanced fiction workshop on writing page-turning fiction that remains true to your artistic vision.

We asked him a few questions to give you the inside scoop on his classes. 

What has been inspiring you lately in your work? "I've been inspired lately by three women: Saidiya Hartman, Beyonce, and Margaret Atwood. Each has introduced ideas that I've been exploring. Hartman's 'Critical Fabulation' has me reconsidering how to tell lost stories. For Bey, it's her fearlessness in working across genres. And my latest book, The American Daughters, wouldn't exist without The Handmaid's Tale." 

What’s your workshop style, and what can people expect at Lit Fest? "My workshops are fun. I remind writers that writing should feel good and not be a slog. Otherwise, why bother? Even if someone is writing about brain-eating zombies or intense personal experiences, there's room to add a little zhuzh. So, I think we'll have a good time and writers will leave feeling empowered."