Writerly States: MFA Alum Jen Werner Interviews Faculty Eliot Schrefer
“One of the main things that [has] become part of my writer toolbox is the idea that the main character needs to be the mover of narrative,” says Eliot Schrefer. “It is important that the character shift their world.” Eliot discusses the quest narrative, research for his award-winning novels, what’s instantly compelling on the page — such as “the unadulterated emotional experience of apes” — and much more:
Eliot Schrefer is the author most recently of ‘Threatened,’ about a boy surviving in the jungles of Gabon alongside chimpanzees. He is also the author of two novels for adults and four other novels for children and young adults. After a childhood spent in Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, and Florida, Schrefer attended Harvard University, where he graduated with High Honors in French and American literature. After a year teaching at a boarding school in Rome, he settled down in New York City. ‘Endangered,’ his fifth novel, was a finalist for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature, one of NPR’s “Best of 2012,” and an editor’s choice in The New York Times, which called it “dazzling, big-hearted.” The book was also a finalist for the Walden Award and won the Green Earth Book Award and the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. Schrefer journeyed to the Democratic Republic of Congo while researching the novel, and has since traveled wider as he’s embarked on a quartet of novels about the great apes, one book for each primate, detailing a young person’s relationship with that animal. His works have been translated into many languages including German, Russian, Polish, Taiwanese, Bulgarian, and Japanese. Most recently, Schrefer joined the faculty of Fairleigh Dickinson’s low residency MFA program.
Watch additional segments of the Eliot Schrefer interview and others at Writerly States.
Writerly States is a documentary series and living archive that explores, through video interviews, the world of working and publishing writers of all genres. “This project is a work of preservation and, hopefully, an extension of the Great American Narrative,” states FDU MFA alum Jen Werner. “Like America, Writerly States is an experiment. My hypothesis is that however much we’re connected via the Internet, it still means something to be a writer from Texas, or to be from Seattle and living in Chicago, to be a native New Yorker, or Californian. Writerly States is about discovering what it means to be a writer in America now.” All interviews are filmed, edited, and produced by Jen.
Are you interested in studying with Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Low Residency MFA program? Learn more.