Marjorie Sandor

Fiction, Nonfiction

Marjorie Sandor
  • Biography


Marjorie Sandor is the author of five books of fiction and creative nonfiction, most recently a debut novel, The Secret Music at Tordesillas, which won the 2020 Foreword Indies Gold Medal for Historical Fiction. Earlier books include the linked story collection Portrait of my Mother, Who Posed Nude in Wartime, winner of the 2004 National Jewish Book Award in Fiction, and two books of personal essays, including The Night Gardener: A Search for Homewhich won a 2000 Oregon Book Award in Literary NonfictionHer stories and essays have appeared in Ploughshares, Agni, The Georgia Review, and other literary journals, and have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize. She is also the editor of The Uncanny Reader: Stories from the Shadows, an international anthology of short fiction from St. Martins Press (2015). She has been a member of the RWW faculty since its founding.

Mentor. Workshops and classes in fiction and nonfiction.

Statement: “One day in college, my favorite teacher came to the limit of her patience with me.  I had nearly suffocated a personal essay full of similes and metaphors and the word ‘I.’  She looked at my five drafts, handed them back and said, ‘You can do better than this. Just tell the truth.’  The simple rightness of this struck me like a blow to the head, and still does: it is a model of great teaching.  Of course I still commit, on a daily basis, the sins of over-decorating, of willful obscurity and unmediated anger and blindness to irony, but I know, thanks to her, that there is another way.  And I try to follow her example as a teacher, too.  This Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg once said she wanted to be ‘the recording angel’ of her family.  I like this idea, and even better, her example.  Her sentences are laconic, unadorned, stripped down in language and tragic in historical context, but rich in compassion, humor, and irony.  She regards her characters with an astonishing tenderness, from a little distance, as if she hovers just above the earth’s surface, still part of its atmosphere, but not confined by its petty passions.  Another great writer, Nadine Gordimer, says you must write as if you were already dead.  I almost know what she means, and I will spend the rest of my life reaching to accomplish it, if only in a single sentence that bears witness to the beautiful failures we are bound, by our humanness, to create.  I read for it, write toward it, and teach with it always in mind.”