Sophomore Seminars

Family Stories


This creative writing workshop will explore the idea of family. We’ll begin with our questions: How do we conceptualize the word family? How do family histories, stories, mythologies, and languages shape our narratives? What does family have to do with the construction of a self? How can we investigate the self and all of its many contexts in writing? We’ll consider how we might work from our questions in order to craft work that is meaningful and revealing. Students will have the opportunity to write in both poetry and prose, as well as to develop their own creative cross-genre projects. They will also have the opportunity to workshop their material in a supportive community of writers. Along the way, we’ll discuss elements of craft essential to strong writing: how to turn the self into a speaker; how create the world of a piece through image, detail, and metaphor; how to craft beautiful sentences and lines; how to find a form; and many other topics. To help guide us, we’ll read work by exciting contemporary authors such as Alison Bechdel, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Maggie Nelson, and Weike Wang. This course will emphasize process over product, risk-taking, questioning, and finding joy in artistic practice as we consider the family and all of its implications. Students will come away with a better understanding of their own stories and the many ways they might shape them in language.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Brittany Perham

"I am a Jones Lecturer in the Creative Writing Program at Stanford, and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow. I am the author of Double Portrait (W.W. Norton, 2017), which was selected by Claudia Rankine for the Barnard Women Poets Prize; The Curiosities (Free Verse Editions, 2012); and, with Kim Addonizio, The Night Could Go in Either Direction (SHP, 2016), a collaborative chapbook that combines prose poems and pen-and-ink drawings. In my work I am interested in recurrence, refrain, and musicality; I am also interested in formally experimental, cross-genre, and hybrid writing. My poems and essays have received the Elizabeth Matchett Stover Memorial Award from Southwest Review; and awards and fellowships from the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fund, and the James Merrill House Foundation. Before coming to Stanford in 2009, I taught literature and creative writing at James Madison University. I live in San Francisco."