Victoria Redel

on leave spring semester

BA, Dartmouth College. MFA, Columbia University. Author of three books of poetry and five books of fiction, including her most recent, Before Everything (2017). For her collection of stories, Make Me Do Things (2013), for which she was awarded a 2014 Guggenheim fellowship for fiction. Her novels include The Border of Truth (2007) and Loverboy (Graywolf, 2001/Harcourt, 2002), which was awarded the 2001 S. Mariella Gable Novel Award and the 2002 Forward Silver Literary Fiction Prize and was chosen in 2001 as a Los Angeles Times Best Book. Loverboy was adapted for a feature film directed by Kevin Bacon. Swoon (University of Chicago Press, 2003), was a finalist for the James Laughlin Award. Her work has been widely anthologized and translated; her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Harvard Review, The Quarterly, The Literarian, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, Elle, BOMB, More, and NOON. SLC, 1996–

Graduate Courses

MFA Writing 2019-2020

Fiction Workshop: Beginning the Novel


This workshop is for writers considering novel writing. It is a class that will involve a good deal of mucking around in the beginnings of a novel, trying to find the first nub and hopefully more; so it will involve a good deal of trial, error, trial, error...or, seen another way, the great frustrating, and often exhausting, novel adventure. We will spend quite a bit of time on the opening of a novel, the structure, voice, POV, initial imagery, recurring imagery, recursion, and novel shapes. We will look to many published works and essays to study the range and possibility from linked-story novels, genre-bending novels, experimental novels, and character-driven novels. Writers to be studied include: Marquez, Lispector, Strout, Baldwin, Twain, Dickens, Winterson, Ward, Fitzgerald, Schutt, Robinson, and Morrison.


Previous Courses

The Education of a Poet

Open , Seminar—Fall

Poet Muriel Rukeyser said, “If there were no poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented that day. For there would be an intolerable hunger.” In this class, we will read a variety of poems and essays as paths to discussion of what we write, how we write, and even why we write poetry. Consideration of what influences both the subject and fabric of poems will be integral to our conversation and to the questions we ask of our own poems. Thus, we’ll draw not only from the work of other writers but also from art, film, science, history, board games, mythology, religion, and popular culture. This is a class for those writers who are willing to write, write more, and revise even more. The goal in this class is to dig into the particular and peculiar ways that only you can sound in a poem and to develop various sonic effects and strategies to expand your possibilities. Among the poets studied will be the work of remarkable faculty and students who have shaped the Sarah Lawrence writing program, including Grace Paley, Jane Cooper, Thomas Lux, Gerald Stern, Jean Valentine, and Muriel Rukeyser, as well as current poetry faculty.


Memory and Fiction

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

The poet Ranier Maria Rilke wrote about shaping art: “You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, but it is still not enough to be able to think of all that.” In this class, we will explore the uses of childhood and memory as springboards for short fiction. How do writers move from the kernel of experience to the making of fiction? How do we use our past to develop stories that are not the retelling of what happened but, rather, an opportunity to develop a fiction with its own integrity and truth? How do we work with what we have half-known or half-observed to shape story and create characters? We will work from writing experiments and readings of short fictions and novels.


Fiction Workshop: A Life in Fiction


This workshop will focus on the development of craft, expanding the writer’s understanding and range of character, syntax, narrative strategies, and narrative risk. We will look at published works of fiction to understand how a writer has accomplished what she/he has accomplished in a specific novel or short story and what we as writers can learn and make use of in the advancement of our own craft. In addition to working on drafts and revisions of fictions, there will be weekly writing experiments that will, hopefully, upend and expand preconceptions of language and structure in the shaping of fiction.


First-Year Studies: A Life in Fiction, the Craft of Fiction

Open , FYS—Year

In this yearlong fiction class, we will create a community of writers committed to the craft of fiction—namely, reading and writing every day. In the fall semester, full attention will be given to the short story in all of its possibilities. We will consider the possibilities in a writer’s tool belt: POV, tone, structure, character, diction, tense, narrative, distance, etc. Weekly writing experiments, weekly close reading, and formal annotations of published short stories will be assigned. In the fall, we will approach the short story in a systematic way—building up from the demands of the opening sentence and opening paragraphs to the demands of event and complication and the development of character. We will take a story through to a first draft (workshopped in class) and then to revision (again, discussed in class). Each week, we will read one to three stories to highlight the week’s subject and to build a shared writers’ vocabulary. Conference work will involve additional writing and reading. In the spring semester, our writing group will delve deeper into the narrative possibilities of the story form. We might decide to focus our class reading with regard to certain themes that are emerging out of the class fictions. Additionally, each student will explore the full body of work of an established writer, as well the work of her or his influences, which will be presented to the class at the end of the year.