Dodie Bellamy, MFA

Affiliate Faculty
MFA in Creative Writing
(310) 578-1080

Dodie Bellamy is a novelist, poet, critic and cultural journalist. Her mixed genre collection, Academonia, was published in 2006 by Krupskaya. Her infamous epistolary vampire novel The Letters of Mina Harker was reprinted in 2004 by the University of Wisconsin Press, with an introduction by Dennis Cooper. Also in 2004, Suspect Thoughts printed Pink Steam, her collection of fiction, memoir, and memoiresque essays. Bellamy co-authored an epistolary collaboration on AIDS with the late Sam D’Allesandro, Real. Time Out New York named her chapbook Barf Manifesto (Ugly Duckling, 2008) “Best Book Under 30 Pages” for 2009. Cunt-Ups, a radical feminist revision of the “cut-up” pioneered by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, won the 2002 Firecracker Alternative Book Award for Poetry. She also has received the San Francisco Bay Guardian Goldie Award for Literature. Her work has appeared in, among others, the anthologies Bottoms Up, Pills, Thrills, Chills and Heartache, Best American Erotica 2001, High Risk, The Art of Practice: 45 Contemporary Poets, A Poetics of Criticism, The New Fuck You, Primary Trouble, and Moving Borders: Three Decades of Innovative Writing by Women.

Her essays and book reviews have appeared in the Chicago Review, The Village Voice, The San Francisco Chronicle, Bookforum, Out/Look, The San Diego Reader, Nest, as well as numerous small press literary journals. Winter/Spring 2010 she was a guest blogger for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She has taught creative writing at California College of the Arts, the San Francisco Art Institute, Mills College, UC Santa Cruz, University of San Francisco, Naropa University, San Francisco State, and CalArts. With Kevin Killian, she has edited over 150 issues of the literary/art zine Mirage #4/Period(ical).

Dodie Bellamy – fiction

I believe in guiding students in two directions simultaneously.  I invite students to notice, appreciate, and evoke a precision of details drawn from their own experience, especially body and sensual experience.  At the same time I constantly remind them that all writing is artifice, that truth and sincerity are tones rather than absolutes, that language is a material to be manipulated.  I feel this awareness benefits students who are doing “experimental” work as well as those who are interested in a more traditional, “realistic” narrative, giving them more control over their “realism.”  I’m not a terminology queen, nor am I big on rules for writing.  More than once I’ve winced when students have told me rules they’ve learned from craft books or in other classes, tidbits such as “a first person narrator should never look in the mirror.”  I believe that anything can work in a piece, if done consciously and skillfully.  I tend not to care for work that feels contrived, but even that can be effective if a writer is doing “contrived.”  Did I mention I believe anything can work?

While I’m certainly open to suggesting directions in which a piece could move, I mostly try to meet students where they’re at in their work, to get inside what they’re trying to do, and to help make that doing as effective as possible.  I like to get to know the people I’m critiquing, to hear what they’re trying/wanting to accomplish in their work.  I’m very supportive, yet honest in my criticisms.  I think it’s as important to discuss what’s working in a piece as well as areas that are more problematic.  We all need encouragement to keep up our momentum.  I don’t insist that anyone follow my recommendations.

Students are free to contact me by email.  I’d like to reserve the phone for issues that feel too delicate for email.

I will do at least one private online chat with each student sometime during the semester.  Students will participate in two online conferences.  One will be a reading conference in which they will discuss one book a month (5 books total), which we’ll all agree on.  Each month one mentee will be responsible for leading the discussion.  The other conference will be for discussion student work.  Each month each mentee will post a story for feedback from other mentees.  I believe peer critiquing is important, particularly in the development of survival skills for after you graduate.  While I won’t post to the conferences, I will read them.

Each month I will expect 10 to 20 pages (maximum) of work that is “fresh,” meaning work that the student is currently engaged in producing, not old work that’s already been critiqued or been sitting in a drawer for ages.  Work should be double-spaced hard copy, accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope.  I expect students to meet deadlines.  I will return work as quickly as possible.  Usually my responses will include a close reading of the work with ample marginal comments, as well as a letter discussing broader issues.  I am not a copy editor, so please correct your own grammar and spelling issues.  In addition to the 5 books read as a group, I expect each student to read an additional 5 books per semester.  Each month students will send me at least one 1-3 page response to these additional books.  I’m not looking for mini critical essays here, but rather personal responses dealing with how reading a particular book was useful to you as a writer, any ideas for your own writing that the book generated, any challenges it brought up for you.