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.


Deborah is a new instructor to WriterHouse. Check back after the Winter term to see what her students are saying.