Carolyn Ferrell

Undergraduate Discipline

Writing

Graduate Program

MFA Writing Program

BA, Sarah Lawrence College. MA, City College of New York. Author of the short-story collection Don’t Erase Me, awarded the Art Seidenbaum Award of The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the John C. Zachiris Award given by Ploughshares, and the Quality Paperback Book Prize for First Fiction; stories anthologized in The Best American Short Stories of the Century; Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers; The Blue Light Corner: Black Women Writing on Passion, Sex, and Romantic Love; and Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1967 to the Present. Recipient of grants from the Fulbright Association, the German Academic Exchange (D.A.A.D.), the City University of New York MAGNET Program, and the National Endowment for the Arts (Literature fellow for 2004). SLC, 1996–

Current undergraduate courses

Fiction Workshop: The Short Story

Spring

What makes a story a story? What are the tools of fiction writers? How does one go from character to scene to story? When does a story make you want to keep reading—beyond its end? And how can we, using these tools, begin to put our own stories on the page? In this workshop, we will explore these questions as we read and write our own fiction, which we will do through regular writing and reading assignments. We’ll explore various forms of the short story, including the “short short,” micro fiction, the frame story, the epistolary story, and others. We will read authors such as Edward P. Jones, Alice Munro, Junot Diaz, and Jamaica Kincaid, always considering craft issues of point of view, character development, setting, and plot. Students will be expected to attend at least two readings on campus, as well as to prepare a reading list for conference. We will also work on developing our constructive criticism—which, next to reading, is key to becoming a strong writer.

Faculty

Fiction Workshop: Transformation

Year

How do we, as writers, take our lived experiences and transform them into fiction? The novelist Janet Frame observed that “putting it all down as it happens is not fiction; there must be the journey by oneself, the changing of the light focused upon the material, the willingness of the author herself to live within that light…the real shape, the first shape, is always a circle formed, only to be broken and reformed, again and again.” In this course, we will think about the many ways in which transformation occurs within fiction, whether it be the transformation of lived experience into art or the ways in which conflict moves toward resolution to create transformation in a story. We will explore questions of craft: What makes a story a story? How does one go from word to sentence to paragraph to scene? How much material from real life can we use? And does something always need to “happen” in a story? The workshop will be divided between the discussion of student stories and of published authors—among those we'll read are Chekov, Gogol, Munro, Kincaid, Jones, and Saunders. We will also read from other genres, including essays on writing and graphic memoir. Students are required to do additional conference reading, as well as attend at least two campus readings per semester. From the start, we will work on developing our constructive criticism, which (when developed in a supportive atmosphere) should help us better understand our own creative writing.

Faculty

Current graduate courses

Fiction Workshop: Literary Journals and Writing

Fall

Where do the stories come from that are featured in anthologies like Best American or the O. Henry Prize Stories?  How does the fiction in the Paris Review compare to that of Prairie Schooner? What sort of writers are published in Tin House? Ploughshares? Who publishes in reviews and journals to begin with? In this workshop, we will read various literary journals, both online and in print format, as a way to answer these and other questions, as well as discover new voices. In terms of writing, this workshop will be held in a traditional format wherein students deliver their work a week in advance of the workshop and write up formal critiques of the fiction of their fellow writers. There will be writing exercises in addition to weekly readings of journals and critical essays. Literary journals can be sources of great reading and inspiration; becoming familiar with them might help you figure out where your own fiction might one day find a home.

Faculty

Previous courses

Before and After

Spring

This class will be run as a traditional workshop, with students exchanging their own stories for discussion and completing weekly reading assignments; but the focus of our reading will be on two works by a particular author, one early and one later. We will explore the development of voice and subject matter as well as the craft of the story, including characterization, plot, point of view, and form. These writers will be our teachers. By reading their work, we hope to come to a clearer understanding of what makes a story live and breathe. More topics will certainly arise as we consider the work of authors such as Tobias Wolff, Junot Diaz, George Saunders, Alice Munro, and Jamaica Kincaid. Students will be expected to attend at least two readings on campus, hand in writing assignments every other week, and complete a set of readings for conference.

Faculty

Fiction Workshop

Year

How do we, as writers, take our lived experiences and transform them into fiction? The novelist Janet Frame observed that “putting it all down as it happens is not fiction; there must be the journey by oneself, the changing of the light focused upon the material, the willingness of the author herself to live within that light…the real shape, the first shape, is always a circle formed, only to be broken and reformed, again and again.” Through exercises and longer writing assignments, we will begin the journey into this softly lit territory of subject matter. We will explore questions of craft: What makes a story a story? Does there always need to be transformation? How does structure help create voice? The workshop will be divided between the discussion of student stories and published authors such as Edward P. Jones, Alice Munro, George Saunders, Jamaica Kincaid, and E.L. Doctorow. Students will do additional conference reading and be required to attend at least two campus readings per semester. We will also work on developing our constructive criticism, which (when developed over time and in a supportive atmosphere) should help us better understand the workings of our own creative writing.

Faculty

First-Year Studies: The Stories We Build

FYS

How do we, as writers, take our lived experiences and transform them into fiction? The novelist Janet Frame observed that “putting it all down as it happens is not fiction; there must be the journey by oneself, the changing of the light focused upon the material, the willingness of the author herself to live within that light…the real shape, the first shape, is always a circle formed, only to be broken and reformed, again and again.” Through exercises and longer writing assignments, we will begin the journey into this softly lit territory of subject matter. We will explore questions of craft: What makes a story a story? How does one go from word to sentence to paragraph to scene? Does there always need to be transformation? What is the role of setting? And how does structure help create voice? The workshop will be divided between the discussion of student stories and the discussion of published authors—among those we’ll read are Chekov, Raymond Carver, Alice Munro, Alice Walker, George Saunders, and Edward P. Jones. We will also read from other genres, including essays on writing from writers such as Chabon, Russo, Freed, and Hemley. Students are required to do additional conference reading, as well as to attend at least two campus readings per semester. From the start, we will work on developing our constructive criticism that (when developed in a supportive atmosphere) should help us better understand the workings of the stories we build.

Faculty

Literary Journals and Writing

Fall

Where do the stories come from that are featured in anthologies like Best American or the O. Henry Prize Stories? How does the fiction in the Paris Review compare to that of Prairie Schooner? How is Tin House fundamentally different from Ploughshares? And who gets published in literary journals to begin with? If questions like these are on your mind, this might be the workshop for you. Students will read various literary journals, both online and in print format, as a way not only of discovering the sources of mainstream fiction collections but also of discovering new voices. In terms of writing, this workshop will be held in a traditional format, wherein students deliver their work a week in advance of the workshop and write up formal critiques of the fiction of their fellow writers. There will be writing exercises in addition to weekly readings of journals and critical essays. Literary journals can be sources of great reading and inspiration; becoming familiar with them might help you figure out where your own fiction might one day find a home.

Faculty

The Short Story

Fall

What makes a story a story? What are the tools of fiction writers? How does one go from character to scene to story? When does a story make you want to keep reading—beyond its end? And how can we, using these tools, begin to put our own stories on the page? In this workshop, we will explore these questions as we read and write our own fiction, which we will do through regular writing and reading assignments. We’ll explore various forms of the short story, including the “short short,” micro fiction, the frame story, the epistolary story, and others. We will read authors such as Edward P. Jones, Alice Munro, Junot Diaz, and Jamaica Kincaid, always considering craft issues of point of view, character development, setting, and plot. Students will be expected to attend at least two readings on campus, as well as prepare a reading list for conference. We will also work on developing our constructive criticism—which, next to reading, is key to becoming a strong writer.

Faculty

Voice and Form

Fall

It’s something we talk about in workshop and admire in the literature we read, but how does one discover one’s voice in fiction? How is voice related to subject matter, form, and point of view? How does one go about creating a memorable voice on the page? Through writing exercises and weekly reading assignments, we’ll explore these and other questions. Readings will include several genres, including young-adult novels, graphic memoirs, short stories, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Authors we’ll read include George Saunders, Barry Yourgrau, Sherman Alexie, Aimee Bender, and Jacqueline Woodson. Students will get a chance to workshop stories at least twice during the semester; for conference, there will be additional reading. Come prepared to work hard, critique the writing of others with care and insight, and hone the elements of craft in your own fiction.

Faculty