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Writing in the City: Why New York Makes Great Writers

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Girl on a bridge. J. Ramos, Stanford New York

SINY 114 - Writing in the City: Why New York Makes Great Writers

This is both a fiction workshop and an introduction to the literary culture of New York.  Students will engage in a rigorous study of the craft of fiction, one that focuses upon writers who have a connection to the city.  We will begin by anatomizing published stories by New York writers like John Cheever, Grace Paley, Nathan Englander, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Lethem, Ralph Ellison, and Philip Roth.  Students will be encouraged to seek out and experience the settings of the stories; place-based writing exercises will tune students’ senses to the rhythms of New York.  Students will then produce their own short stories, which we will examine in candid and respectful workshop discussions.

The course will also provide an entrée into the New York literary scene.  Writers like Zadie Smith, Nathan Englander, and Colson Whitehead will be invited to the class to discuss their work and the city’s influence upon it; students will be encouraged to attend literary events like the Moth Storytelling Series, Amanda Stern’s famous Happy Ending Reading Series, and the literary lectures at the 92nd St. Y.  Students will visit the city’s independent bookstores—icons like the Strand and St. Mark’s Bookshop, but also secret gems like Michael Seidenberg’s tiny Upper East Side shop, Brazen Head.  Students will pay a visit to the New York Public Library to learn how writers use its incomparable collection for research.  A panel of experts from the publishing industry—magazine and book editors, publishers, and literary agents—will visit the class to discuss the essential relationship between writers and those who bring their work to print.  

This course fulfills the Creative Expression (CE) WAYS requirement.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Julie Orringer

Julie Orringer, Stanford in New York

Julie Orringer is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow and the author of two award-winning books: The Invisible Bridge, a novel, and How to Breathe Underwater, a collection of stories.  She is a graduate of Cornell University, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the Stegner Fellowship Program at Stanford, and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.  She has taught fiction writing at Iowa, Stanford, Columbia, Michigan, NYU, and Brooklyn College.    

Orringer’s stories have appeared in the Paris Review, the Yale Review, the Washington Post, Ploughshares, and McSweeney’s, and have been widely anthologized.  Her novel and story collection were named New York Times Notable Books and were selected as Best Books of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post; they have been translated into fifteen languages.  Her novel is being adapted for film by Lajos Koltai.

Orringer lives in Brooklyn, where she is at work on a novel about Varian Fry, the New York journalist who went to Marseille in 1940 to save writers and artists blacklisted by the Gestapo.