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CRITIQUE THIS! Notes From a Writer’s Workshop

Can you handle the James N. Frey Intensive?

It was 2002, and our guru at the weekend writing workshop on the Oregon coast was author James Frey.

Not that James Frey, who got in big trouble with Oprah Winfrey after committing one of  literature’s cardinal sins: adding fictionalized elements to a purported memoir.

Our James Frey, James N. Frey, was (and is) a recognized author of both fiction (with an emphasis on mysteries) and nonfiction. He earned an Edgar Award nomination for his 1987 novel Long Way to Die, and his 1992 novel Winter of the Wolves was a Literary Guild Selection. By the second year of the new millennium, our Frey was perhaps best known for his writer’s how-to book, How to Write a Damn Good Novel. Frey was a much sought-after commodity for writer’s groups looking for workshop leaders and literary mentors interested in sharing knowledge of story-craft and developmental structure with aspiring and early-stage professional writers.

Twenty such writers had each ponied up $300, and on a foggy Friday night convened at the Oregon Writer’s Colony retreat at Rockaway Beach to cook communal meals, read aloud excerpts of their work, and face the legendary, brutally honest, and potentially devastating critiques of Mr. Frey.