Nelly Reifler

BA, Hampshire College. MFA, Sarah Lawrence College. Author of a story collection, See Through, and a novel, Elect H. Mouse State Judge; fiction in magazines and journals, including Story, Tweed's, BOMB, McSweeney’s, Nerve, Black Book, The Milan Review, and Lucky Peach, as well as in the anthologies 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11, Lost Tribe: New Jewish Fiction from the EdgeFound Magazine’s Requiem for a Paper Bag, and No Near Exit: Writers Select Their Favorite Work From Post Road Magazine. Fiction also read on NPR’s Selected Shorts and as an Audible a la Carte edition. Recipient of a Henfield Prize, a UAS Explorations Prize, and a Rotunda Gallery Emerging Curator grant for work with fiction and art. Writer in Residence, Western Michigan University, 2014; recommendations editor at Post Road, 2010-present. SLC, 2002–

Undergraduate Courses 2019-2020

Writing

The Rules—and How to Break Them

Open , Seminar—Year

The first part of this yearlong class will be modeled after a graduate-level craft fiction class. We will examine and discuss fundamental craft terms, as well as the generally accepted contemporary rules for writing fiction. We’ll look at how some writers explode those rules—and we’ll see how we can exploit the rules in our own writing. The craft class will segue into a workshop, in which we will discuss student work each week using what we’ve learned about craft rules and rule-breaking. We’ll be reading work by published authors, such as Katherine Anne Porter, Anton Chekhov, Octavia Butler, Raymond Carver, Robert Lopez, E. M. Forster, Samuel Beckett, Helen Oyeyemi, Maurice Kilwein Guevara, Joy Williams, Barry Hannah, Denis Johnson, Renee Gladman, Elizabeth Crane, Shelly Jackson, Gary Lutz, and others.

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Related Disciplines

Graduate Courses

Writing 2019-2020

Fiction Craft: The Prose Experiment

Craft—Fall

All fiction is written taking into account the basic constraints of prose: grammar, punctuation, and the formal standards of style. In this class, we will explore the use of other structures to build compelling, surprising works of fiction. A writing constraint can be as hypnotic as an illusionist’s sleight of hand, freeing the writer’s mind for magic. We’ll examine the effects of lists, footnotes, erasures, numbering, and omissions; the impact of experiments with verb mood, unexpected points of view, and tense; different approaches to intentionally breaking established rules; and the ways in which other formulae can help us and our readers find new paths to our imaginations. Students will work with writing assignments, play writing games, and occasionally collaborate to generate stories. We’ll read fiction—by authors such as Gertrude Stein, Thomas Bernhard, Georges Perec, Robert Lopez, Maurice Kilwein Guevara, Renee Gladman, Joshua Ferris, Matthew Sharpe, Elizabeth Crane, and others—created using such techniques. We’ll also discuss some theories around constraints in writing. We’ll talk with contemporary authors about their writing processes, and each student will design a constraint that we will use for writing in class.

Faculty

Previous Courses

Realms of the Unreal: Speculative Fiction Workshop

Open , Seminar—Year

Although every work of fiction is a fantasy, fiction writers often strive to portray a cohesive reality. In this workshop, we will focus on writing and reading fiction that embraces fantastic, splintered, and speculative realities. We will focus on creating worlds from our dreams, daydreams, collective myths, and imagined technologies. We'll treat our stories as laboratories that accommodate daring and complex experiments. We’ll talk about subjectivity and the scope of human perception—and explore how much of what we agree to call reality is itself a fantasy. We will also examine the precedents set in science fiction, fantasy, and other areas of literature that deal with the realms of the unreal. Authors whose work you may be assigned for class or conference include Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, Philip K. Dick, William Burroughs, Octavia Butler, Judy Budnitz, Helen Oyeyemi, Karin Tidbeck, Cathy Park Hong, William Gibson, Paul LaFarge, Shelly Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, David Ohle, Samuel Delaney, Yasunari Kawabata, Angela Carter, and Dolan Morgan—along with theorists and philosophers such as Jean Baudrillard and Markus Gabriel. We’ll identify and discuss conventions within genres, both working within them and pushing against them.

Faculty

The Prose Experiment

Open , Seminar—Fall

All fiction is written taking into account the basic constraints of prose: grammar, punctuation, and the formal standards of style. In this class, we will explore the use of other structures to build compelling, surprising works of fiction. A writing constraint can be as hypnotic as an illusionist’s sleight of hand, freeing the writer’s mind for magic. We'll examine the effects of lists, footnotes, erasures, numbering, and omissions; the impact of experiments with verb mood, unexpected points of view, and tense; different approaches to intentionally breaking established rules; and the ways in which other formulae can help us and our readers find new paths to our imaginations. Students will work with writing assignments, play writing games, and do in-class exercises to generate stories. We’ll read published fiction—by authors such as Gertrude Stein, Thomas Bernhard, Georges Perec, Junot Diaz, Maurice Kilwein Guevara, Matthew Sharpe, Elizabeth Crane, and others—created using such techniques. We’ll also discuss some theory around constraints in writing and talk with contemporary authors about their writing processes. Workshop discussions will focus on students’ fiction written with such techniques, and each student will design a writing constraint.

Faculty

Fiction Workshop

Open , Seminar—Spring

Our imaginations grant us waking dreams, and cultivating the imagination is a large part of writing good fiction. Equally important, though, are sharpening our observations and mastering craft. In this course, we will aim for a balance of all these elements. We will pursue philosophical questions about writing, as well. For instance: Is there such a thing as a reliable narrator? Does what is considered realistic vary according to culture and era? What essentially defines a short story, as opposed to a poem or an essay? Students will be encouraged to stick with the revision process, to let go of preconceived ideas about subject matter, and to experiment with language and form. During the first half of the semester, we will focus on writing and reading short-short stories; the second part of the term will be spent writing and discussing longer pieces. We will read work by authors such as Anton Chekhov, Katherine Anne Porter, Joy Williams, Shelley Jackson, Dolan Morgan, Robert Lopez, Helen Oyeyemi, and Gary Lutz.

Faculty

Speculative Fiction Workshop

Workshop—Fall

Although every work of fiction is a fantasy, fiction writers often strive to portray reality. In this workshop, we will focus on writing and reading fiction that embraces the fantastic. We will focus on creating worlds from our dreams and daydreams. We’ll treat our stories as laboratories of the imagination that accommodate daring and complex experiments. We’ll talk about subjectivity and the scope of human perception—and explore how much of what we agree to call reality is itself a fantasy. We will also examine the precedents set in science fiction, fantasy, and other areas of literature that deal with the realms of the unreal. Authors whose work you may read for class or conference include Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, Philip K. Dick, William Burroughs, Octavia Butler, Judy Budnitz, Helen Oyeyemi, Karin Tidbeck, Cathy Park Hong, William Gibson, Paul LaFarge, Shelly Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, David Ohle, Samuel Delaney, Yasunari Kawabata, Angela Carter, and Dolan Morgan, along with theorists and philosophers such as Jean Baudrillard and Markus Gabriel. We’ll identify and discuss conventions within genres, both working within them and pushing against them. 

Faculty

The Fictional World

Open , Seminar—Spring

In this workshop, we'll treat our stories as laboratories of the imagination that accommodate daring and complex experiments. We'll take a closeup look at your writing: We'll focus on precision of language, explore the mysteries and mechanics of point of view, and talk about building a stable world with words. Empathy is a prerequisite for effectively discussing each other's work. In workshop discussions, we'll cultivate critiques that always keep the writers' intentions in mind. Each week's authors are encouraged to bring in questions and thoughts about their own work. Revision will be emphasized. Over the course of the semester, each student will revise a story or novel excerpt at least once and will have the option to workshop different drafts. We'll often write from prompts designed to simultaneously tap into the unconscious and practice craft. The published works that we read for class and conference will be chosen in response to students' writing and will include authors such as Gary Lutz, Denis Johnson, David Bezmozgis, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Rivka Galchen, Anton Chekhov, Junot Diaz, Maurice Kilwein Guevara, Barry Hannah, Octavia Butler, Katherine Anne Porter, David Ohle, Yasunari Kawabata, and Joy Williams.

Faculty

Fiction Workshop

Workshop—Fall

The most delicate choices that a writer makes significantly affect a story or novel. In this workshop, we'll take a close-up look at your fiction. We'll focus on precision of language, explore the mysteries and mechanics of point of view, and talk about building a stable world with words. We'll treat our stories as laboratories of the imagination that accommodate daring and complex experiments. Empathy is a prerequisite for discussing each other’s work effectively. In workshop discussions, we’ll cultivate critiques that always keep the writers’ intentions in mind; each week‘s authors are encouraged to bring in questions and thoughts about their own work. Revision will be emphasized; over the course of the semester each student will revise a story or novel excerpt at least once and will have the option to workshop different drafts. We’ll often write from prompts designed to simultaneously tap into the unconscious and practice craft. The published works that we read for class and conference will be chosen in response to students’ writing and may include authors such as Gary Lutz, Denis Johnson, David Bezmozgis, Rivka Galchen, Anton Chekhov, Junot Diaz, Maurice Kilwein Guevara, Barry Hannah, Octavia Butler, Katherine Anne Porter, David Ohle, Yasunari Kawabata, and Joy Williams.

Faculty