BA, Sarah Lawrence College. MFA, Columbia University. Author of Sandman’s Dust, Stories of an Imaginary Childhood, While the Messiah Tarries, After, Signs and Wonders, Strange Fire, and A Faker’s Dozen; editor of Neurotica, Nothing Makes You Free, and Scribblers on the Roof. Works have been translated into a half-dozen languages and frequently anthologized; winner of the Edward Lewis Wallant Award and other prizes; stories published in Antaeus, The Paris Review, and other magazines; essays published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and other newspapers. SLC, 1993–
Current undergraduate courses
Some people think that all classes—especially writing classes—should be “safe.” I don’t. I prefer danger. Only by risking failure can anyone learn. I want students to care about what they write and how they write; and if the consequences of caring include anxiety, trepidation, and night sweats, so be it. Oh, class should also be fun. As for the content: You write, I read, we talk. Using student work as examples, we talk about what makes one story dynamic and another dull, what makes one character believable and another implausible, and, mostly, what makes one sentence sing and another croak.
Bulk is not an absolute value, but it’s a general truth that if you write more you’ll learn more about what you can and can’t accomplish. Likewise, failure is seldom a condition to be aspired to; yet risking failure—mocking it, taunting it like a tiger tamer—is the best way to ensure ultimate success. To that purpose, I hope that the students in this class will write a lot and risk a lot. Mostly what I care about here is active, continuous engagement. Then, after a manuscript is ready, we will discuss the work in conference and in class. Everyone in the class will address every story submitted to the class. I care about stringent, honest critique. In short: You write. I read. We talk.