Brian Morton

BA, Sarah Lawrence College. Author of five novels, including Starting Out in the Evening and Florence Gordon, and contributing editor of Dissent magazine. He has received the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Koret Jewish Book Award for Fiction, and the Pushcart Prize and has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Kirkus Prize for Fiction. SLC, 1998-

Undergraduate Courses 2020-2021


First-Year Studies: Writing and Reading Fiction

Open , FYS—Year

A novelist once began a lecture by asking how many people in the audience wanted to be writers. When almost everyone raised a hand, he said, “So why the hell aren’t you home writing?” The novelist was asking the right question. The only way to improve as a writer is to write a lot. You might have all the talent in the world. You might have had a thousand fascinating experiences. But talent and experience won’t get you very far unless you have the ability to sit down, day after day, and write. Accordingly, my main goal is to encourage you to develop or sustain the habit of steady writing. You’ll be expected to produce a short story every two weeks, which we’ll discuss in detail during our one-on-one conferences. In class, we’ll be talking about novels, short stories, and essays—learning from writers who have come before us. We’ll read a mix of classic and contemporary writers, including James Baldwin, Anton Chekhov, Jennifer Egan, Percival Everett, Henry James, Toni Morrison, Sigrid Nunez, Philip Roth, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and Virginia Woolf. We’ll meet in conference every week during the fall semester and every other week in the spring.


Previous Courses

Fiction Workshop

Open , Small seminar—Spring

If you're a young writer, these three habits are important to cultivate: the habit of writing a lot, the habit of reading a lot, and the habit of trusting your own imagination. The aim of this class is to help with all three. We will meet once a week to talk about published stories and essays (by writers including Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, James Baldwin, Toni Cade Bambara, Anton Chekhov, Kathleen Collins, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chester Himes, D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, James Alan McPherson, ZZ Packer, Delmore Schwartz, and Nafissa Thompson-Spires) and to share our work in an atmosphere of encouragement and support. Students won’t be criticizing one another’s work; instead, you’ll be helping one another identify your literary strengths and clarify your literary goals. We will also meet for one hour on each of the other four weekdays to write in one another’s company. I’ll be happy to provide prompts every day to help you get started; but if you don't want to use the prompts, you won’t have to. All you’ll need to do is show up and write. Although I hope that our classroom conversations will be fantastic, I have a hunch that the practice of writing together four days a week will be the part of the class that you’ll treasure the most when you think back on it years from now when, if you keep going, you’ll be deep into your life as a writer.