A.J. Verdelle

MFA in Creative Writing Faculty

faculty-aj-verdelle

My teaching passion involves revision. Period. When I first began to write, I was completely daunted by my heroically obtained but completely unsatisfactory drafts. I went, as I do always, in search of references to instruct me, and found nothing I could really use on revision. This challenged me. I have spent all my teaching energies of the last fifteen years coming up with a strategy for communicating revision. My work as a teacher is all about answering this critical question: What do you do now that you have a good draft? How do you move a draft from "done", to beautiful?

I teach a method of revision that has been page-tested by my students. Beginning with defining the hot center, or the passion source, of each manuscript, and radiating out, we refine everything down to where you place your commas and periods. I teach students to revise with acuity, and I teach students to consider and reconsider every word they choose to use. I encourage students to refresh their understanding of the narrative and poetic elements we employ to write fiction, and to make choices among those of which elements to scour, polish and/or re-envision.

Once you know what you're doing revision is the revelator. Watching a manuscript begin to glisten from the muck of an early draft is like finding an emerald in the mud.

Work

Novels 

The Peter Cotton Tales (2012)
The Good Negress (1996) 

Essays, forewords, and book chapters published in: 

The Colors of Nature, Addison Scurlock: 75 Years of Photographing the Nation’s Capital” (2009) The Colors of Nature, National Museum of African American History, Smithsonian Museum, Rise Up Singing: African American Women Speak About Motherhood, Village Voice, Common-place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life, Scarlet Sister Mary, The Nation, Picturing The South, Tracing Cultures: Art History, Criticism, Critical Fiction

Short Story

“Classified,” Conditions Literary Journal (v. 17), 1990.

Poem

“October, 1900.” Ploughshares, Spring, 2000. 

Awards

Vursell Distinguished Fiction Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; Whiting Award in fiction; Bunting Fellowship; NEA Critical Studies Award; finalist for PEN/Faulkner Award; Los Angeles Times Book Prize; IMPAC/Dublin International Book Prize.

Past Affiliations

Princeton University, M.F.A. Program at Vermont College.

Education

M.F.A., Creative Writing, Bard College
M.A., Applied Statistics in the Social Science, University of Chicago
B.A., Political Science, Bard College
Critical Studies & Writing, Independent Study Program at Whitney Museum of American Art