Carolyn Ferrell

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, John C. Zachiris Award given by Ploughshares, and 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, German Academic Exchange (D.A.A.D.), City University of New York MAGNET Program, and National Endowment for the Arts (Literature fellow for 2004). SLC, 1996–

Undergraduate Courses 2017-2018

Writing

The Short Story

Open , Seminar—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 Lesley Nneka Arimah, 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

First-Year Studies: Subject Matter, Voice, Form, Purpose

Open , FYS—Year

What does it mean to be a writer today? How do we find our subject matter, our voices, our forms? The writer Paula Whyman observed, “Art in its many forms can give voice to our concerns, hopes, fears, anxieties—and joys. Art can provide solace. It can spur engagement. It can increase understanding. It can help us feel less alone.” Through weekly reading and writing assignments, we will begin the journey into understanding who we can be as fiction writers. We’ll 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 discussions of student stories and of published fiction writers, including Denis Johnson, George Saunders, Dorothy Allison, Claudia Rankine, and Lesley Arimah. We will also read from other genres, including graphic memoirs and essays on craft by authors such as James Baldwin, Richard Russo, Roxane Gay, and Robin 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; when developed in a supportive atmosphere, our critiques should help us better grasp the workings of our stories and see what those stories can be in the world.

Faculty

Graduate Courses

Writing 2017-2018

Fiction Workshop: Literary Journals and Writing

Workshop—Fall

Where do the stories come from that are featured in anthologies like Best American Poetry or the O. Henry Prize Stories? How does the fiction in Paris Review compare to that of Prairie Schooner? What sort of writers are published in Tin House? In 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 to 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

Stories and Transformation

Open , Seminar—Year

How do we, as writers, transform lived experiences into stories on the page? 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 workshop, we will think about the many ways in which transformation occurs, whether it be translating life into art or how elements of craft (such as characterization and point of view) facilitate transformation in a story. Some questions that we’ll consider regarding technique will include: What makes a story a story? How does one go from word to sentence to paragraph to scene? Does something always need to “happen”? And what are the different ways in which authors transform their characters and deliver a strong and resonant ending? The actual workshop will be divided between the discussion of student work and of published authors; among those we'll read are Edward P. Jones, Junot Diaz, Alice Munro, Jacqueline Woodson, and Andre Dubus III. 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 to attend at least two campus readings per semester. And 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

Fiction Workshop: Transformation

Open , Seminar—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

Fiction Workshop: The Short Story

Open , Seminar—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

First-Year Studies: The Stories We Build

Open , 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

Before and After

Open , Seminar—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