Joan Silber

Michele Tolela Myers Chair in Writing

on leave fall semester

BA, Sarah Lawrence College. MA, New York University. Author of two story collections, Ideas of Heaven (finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize) and In My Other Life, and of four novels, The Size of the World, Lucky Us, In the City, and Household Words—winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award; short stories anthologized in The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, The Story Behind the Story, The O. Henry Prize Stories (2007 and 2003), and two Pushcart Prize collections. Recipient of a literature award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and grants from National Endowment for the Arts and New York Foundation for the Arts. SLC, 1985–

Course Information

Previous courses

And Then What? Story Development


Anyone who has tried to write a story knows that it can be easy to come up with an idea but hard to take it far enough. And what’s far? What’s enough? We will look at different ways to push a story further. If plot is the vehicle of meaning, how does a story figure out what it means? We’ll spend time each week discussing stories by a range of authors, and writing assignments will be linked to those models. (These exercises are required at first and then become optional.) In conference, students will be encouraged to work on longer, more complicated pieces in order to grow their own notions of story. This course will be particularly useful for students with some experience in writing fiction, but all are welcome.


Fiction Workshop


This class is for students who are working on either short stories or longer fiction. We’ll talk a good deal about shape and structure and creating narrative tension. Workshops will ask what a story wants to mean and how it goes about conveying this. I’m always interested in what—-in a writer’s deepest sense of how life works—determines choices about economy or multiplicity in plots or handling point of view. Most of the class time will be spent discussing student work, but we’ll also do some outside reading.