Noted Author Shoots Aspiring Writer at Workshop

Steve Almond, creator of “God Bless America: Stories”, pulled a pistol from a briefcase and shot Dane Zeller in his left hand, immediately following Zeller’s reading of his in-class assignment.

Steve Almond

Those who have taken Almond’s courses before confirm that he carries a gun to emphasize his points and to motivate his students.

According to the course syllabus, Almond was to teach writers that the current fad of writing a story like a TV script leaves out the narrator, the authority readers can rely on.

“I want a narrator in your story, not a camera recording an event. Don’t put it all on the reader’s shoulders to fill in the details of your fiction,” Almond was heard saying.

The noted author and lecturer had provided the students with the following example by John Williams (from the novel “Stoner”):

William Stoner entered the University of Missouri as a freshman in the year 1910, at the age of nineteen. Eight years later, during the height of World War I, he received his Doctor of Philosophy degree and accepted an instructorship at the same University,where he taught until his death in 1956. He did not rise above the rank of assistant professor, and few students remembered him with any sharpness after they had taken his courses. When he died his colleagues made a memorial contribution of a medieval manuscript to the University library. This manuscript may still be found in the Rare Books Collection, bearing the inscription: “Presented to the Library of the University of Missouri, in memory of William Stoner, Department of English, by his colleagues.”

An occasional student who comes upon the name may wonder idly who William Stoner was, but he seldom pursues his curiosity beyond a casual question. Stoner’s colleagues, who held him in no particular esteem when he was alive, speak of him rarely now; to the older ones, his name is a reminder of the end that awaits them all, and to the younger ones it is merely a sound which evokes no sense of the past and no identity with which they can associate themselves or their careers.

Zeller’s in-class critique of this example was that the piece did not leave any room for the reader’s interpretation. There was no imagination required, no hook, no dead body.

Steve Almond's Six-shot Student Motivator

“Interpret this,” Almond was alleged to have said. And then he shot him. 

As Almond was being lead away by authorities, he was heard to shout, “Tell, don’t show.”

Was Almond justified in his use of this new teaching tool?


You can contribute to Steve Almond’s defense fund here.

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