Sharon Harrigan


When did you first feel like a writer?
When I was twelve I won a writing contest and had my poem and photo published in the local neighborhood paper. When I was fourteen, I started taking poetry classes at the Detroit Institute of Arts every Saturday. I was the only kid, but everyone treated me like a peer. Like a fellow writer. That’s when I realized I could be a writer—or, maybe, that I already was. In high school, some of my poems started appearing in a few national literary journals. But it wasn’t the publishing part that made the writing feel real. It was the community of other writers taking me seriously.
What is your philosophy about teaching a writing class?
For me, being a teacher is more like being a coach than it is like being a judge or a critic. My goal is to help writers make their work the best it can be. That includes talking about technique and craft and also providing moral support and encouragement.
If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Charlotte, from Charlotte’s Web. Not only is she a talking spider, she is compassionate and smart, eloquent and generous. She is an innovative and imaginative writer who never gives up until she reaches her goal. She is a loyal and devoted friend. And she does what no one ever believed was possible.


Sharon Harrigan is the author of the debut novel Half, which was published in summer 2020, and the memoir Playing with Dynamite, published in 2017. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University and has published more than 50 personal essays, short stories, and reviews in such venues as Virginia Quarterly Review, New York Times (Modern Love), and Narrative. A starred Booklist review called Half “suspenseful, lyrical, and consuming,” and Publishers’ Weekly called the novel “riveting and inventive.”

Sharon’s current and former students have published their work in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, The Rumpus, NPR, Gravel, The Guardian, Gettysburg Review, Bay Journal, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Living Lutheran Magazine, Mothers Always Write, Fluvanna Review, Charlottesville Family, The Ethos Collection, and Strong4Life, among others.


From Sharon’s Memoir classes:

“As a memoirist, novelist, and teacher, Sharon Harrigan has developed excellent skills in shaping course material, communicating with students, guiding and encouraging them, challenging them.”

“Sharon does an incredible job with a very difficult task: balancing improving our writing, initiating us into the craft/guild, keeping us on track, and facilitating an open, safe space for talking about really difficult topics.”

“Sharon has mastery of the material and is very generous in sharing her time and insights with the class. At a time early on in the course when I was experiencing some uncertainty about aspects of the course, she was extremely patient and open as she guided me to a better understanding of what I needed to do.”

“Utterly transformative — as a writer, as a person. Great atmosphere, so valuable to share and critique. Just fabulous.”

“Sharon is kind, patient, encouraging, extremely wise and generous with her time in guiding us through this process.”

“Sharon provided excellent instruction about writing craft–voice, pacing, reader engagement, structure, and so much more. The course exceeded my expectations by covering a broad array of topics, as well as providing helpful critique.”

From Sharon’s Generative Writing classes:

“Sharon is an excellent instructor and did well with encouraging writers at various levels and genres.”

“She was well-prepared, clear with her comments about writing. She gave us an opportunity to meet with her individually, which was great.”

“Sharon is always looking for ways to improve her teaching, to facilitate the group dynamics, to make it all work better.”

“Sharon holds the space so well, for both the writing and sharing. It feels safe and welcoming.”

“Sharon is a great facilitator. She selected wonderful materials for us to read and each class was structured well.”

From Sharon’s Advanced Fiction class: 

“Sharon was very encouraging and managed the class very well. She made sure that everyone contributed and that the person whose work was being reviewed received useful feedback in a kind way.”

“She adapted very effectively to Zoom limitations and to the range in skill level among the students in the class. I appreciated her clarity with expectations to have workshop critiques submitted to her before class time, which went a long way in encouraging class members to be prepared for discussion.”

“One thing I really appreciated was that she saw the particular needs of this class and brought in materials to specifically address those needs.”

“She chose excellent selections and prompts, facilitated discussion well, and provided a supportive environment for sharing our own work. It greatly enhanced my writing.”