Elizabeth Searle is author of three books of fiction, a forthcoming novel and two works of theater. Her books are: Celebrities in Disgrace, a novella which was produced as a short film from Bravo Sierra in 2010; A Four-Sided Bed, a novel nominated for an American Library Association book award; and a story collection, My Body to You, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Prize (forthcoming in a new paperback version). Her new novel Girl Held in Home is forthcoming in 2011. Elizabeth's Opera and Rock Opera based on the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding skating scandal have brought her national media attention; Elizabeth conceived of and wrote libretti for both shows. Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera premiered with Triangle Productions in 2008 to coverage from the AP, Good Morning America, CNN, CBS and elsewhere; excerpts have been showcased in LA and Boston; a new production is in the works for 2011. Tonya & Nancy: The Opera, Elizabeth's chamber opera, premiered in the American Repertory Theater's Zero Arrow to national coverage including ESPN Hollywood, MSNBC and NPR; the opera was chosen as one of the top three operas of the year by Opera Vista and was most recently performed in 2010 in Minneapolis/St. Paul, with previews 'on ice.' Elizabeth has published over 30 stories in magazines such as Redbook, Ploughshares, and Kenyon Review and in anthologies such as Don't You Forget About Me (Simon & Schuster, 2007). She was the winner of the 2000 Lawrence Foundation Prize for fiction; her fiction has been nominated for the Paterson Fiction Prize and sited as a 'best first novel' and an 'editor's choice' by AOL and Booklist. She is featured in Illuminating Fiction: Today's Best Writers of Fiction (2009) and in two anthologies to be published in 2011: No Near Exit and Men Undressed: Women Writers on Male Sexual Experience. Elizabeth has taught writing at Emerson College, Brown University, Bennington MFA, and UMass Lowell. She serves on the Literacy Committee and Executive Board of PEN/New England. She was the 2007/2008 Visiting Writer at U Mass. Boston. She co-wrote the script for the short film version of Celebrities in Disgrace, which was an official selection at Woods Hole Film Festival on Cape Cod, where it premiered in 2010. Elizabeth has taught script-writing at conferences including the Boston Globe's Media Matters (2009 & 2010).
Celebrities in Disgrace (a novella and stories) (Graywolf Press, Summer, 2001)
Four-Sided Bed (Graywolf Press, 1998
How I Teach:
To me, a big advantage of the 'mentor' one-on-one system is that we can tailor it to fit students' individual and idiosyncratic needs. We can be creative about how we work together.
Having published a novel, a novella, and story collections, I am comfortable working with all forms of fiction. Having been through an MFA myself, I know how much the students invest in the program and how important it is for them to make real progress with their work. I urge students to be direct in their feedback; if what I am doing is not helping them, we can always try another approach. I like to get to know each 'mentee' well.
I am flexible about how I communicate with students. I do line-by-line editing and give fairly detailed written replies; I also am open to doing periodic phone conferences or email conferences. While writing can't be 'taught' per se, any writer can benefit from the honest reactions of serious readers. I try to convey to students my own 'experience' of reading a piece. In all writing, I look for 'charged' points, for sources of energy.
The fiction that I aim to produce as a writer and that I respond to as a reader tends to be psychological character-oriented fiction; writing that is sensual and intelligent, that captures what Virginia Woolf called the 'texture of a mind.'
However, I am open to a variety of styles: experimental; popular fiction that takes character seriously; genre work if done in a fresh way. I am happy to assign exercises upon request; I try to fit reading suggestions to the specific concerns of students. On the third semester critical papers, I have mentored a variety of subjects; I like to stretch myself.
In all my teaching, I enjoy delving into different styles and minds, working with beginning writers to find the strengths of their own voices. I love helping writers create, for each new piece of fiction, a shape that completes itself.