Helen Chandler


When did you first feel like a writer?

I began feeling like a writer when I realized my life was just a resource. It was liberating. I stopped worrying about whether I was revealing too much or embarrassing myself and instead began seeing my experiences as raw material waiting to be shaped. I gave myself the freedom to create, invent, and explore what it is to be human.

What's your philosophy about teaching a writing class?

A good writing teacher fosters the inspiration and faith needed to do creative work. To that end, I try to create a sense of shared undertaking, honesty, and generosity in my classes. Whether discussing student or published work, I strive for clarity about a work’s aims and strengths. This might lead to a deep discussion of writing craft and technique. No matter what the content of the class, I try to sustain a safe and nourishing space that encourages confidence, understanding and growth.

If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why?

I would like to meet Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, seven years into her marriage to Mr. Darcy. I’d like to know how things have worked out for them.

I can’t help remembering Mr. Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth. He said he wanted her against his will and better judgement, and when she asked how she could possibly be tempted by such an insulting offer, he said, “Could you expect me…to congratulate myself on the hope of relations whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”   

Could anyone forget those words? Does Elizabeth continue to chafe at the memory of them? Has she nevertheless yielded to the Darcy pedigree and detached from her inferior relations? Or does she parade her mother and sisters around the halls of Pemberley, where they gawk and titter and horrify the housekeeping staff?


Deborah Harris’s piece, “A Mutt for America,” ran in Dissent Magazine, and her short story, “News of My Life,” appeared in The Southampton Review. She teaches creative writing in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and is currently working on a novel. She earned an MALS in literature from Wesleyan University and an MFA in fiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College.


“I had a great experience with Ms. Harris. She held skillful discussions surrounding technique and led the workshopping in way that encouraged participation from all class members. She asked questions which encouraged all of us to discuss the works in a helpful way for the writer.”

“Any of her comments were posed as ideas. An example would be ” What would you think of putting this part in the present tense?””

“It was the right mix of reading works which illustrate important craft techniques and helpful reading and insights into class members’ pieces. Ms. Harris was very skilled in leading the discussions.”

“Detailed gentle guidance.”

“Ms. Harris was a knowledgable teacher and kept the classes moving forward in a productive way. She made the class fun and our group interacted well. The workshopping was excellent with all participating and being generous with their time and insights.” 

“Changed my perspective not only re my own writing, but now I read other fiction and non fiction with more insight into the craft of writing.”