I just finished The Writing Class, by Jincy Willett. I started this book last week and was enjoying it so much that I read more than half of it, and finished it, over the weekend. The story revolves around a continuing education writing class and its students. If you’ve ever taken a writing class – or any class for that matter, i.e. cooking, exercise, crafts – that’s offered up to anyone, you understand how many different personalities come together. You have the old man who thinks he’s the next Updike, you have the young woman who “has a memoir in her,” you have the creepy guy who’s just looking for women, etc.
I found this book instantly interesting because I’ve been in classes or situations like this, and I discovered myself nodding along at the different people. Their instructor is a washed-up novelist who hasn’t written anything is years. She asks them who their favorite authors are and can justly tell something about her students by their answers. (Some lie and say Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Some pick the likes of Stephen King or Dean Koontz. Some she can tell just don't read.) The goal of the class is to bring in your own pieces of fiction and then get critiqued in front of the class. You have to be pretty special in my mind to set yourself up for criticism from strangers. The teacher, sure, but these classmates of yours who you have no idea whether they even understand the basic fundamentals of the English language let alone what you’re trying to write about.
Soon the instructor and several classmates receive threatening notes/phone calls/pranks from someone within the class. Then, a class member is murdered. The class doesn’t cease to meet, yet meets to try to solve who among them is “The Sniper.” For once, I didn’t figure out the ending before I got to it. Willett did a good job making me question who the bad guy was from the beginning. I had one thought throughout the whole book, but I turned out to be wrong. So, that alone made the book fun to read. But I enjoyed all the characters for various reasons, and I liked how Willett gave us information about each of them sporadically throughout the book, not just in one shot like some authors do.
If you’re looking for a quick fiction read, this one is a lot of fun.