HRI Fellow David Wright Published in The New Yorker

Fellows Seminar Was First Audience for New Yorker Story

For HRI's faculty and graduate fellows, the Fellows Seminar is a key component of the yearlong experience. The Seminar, which meets throughout the fall and spring semesters, is a forum for fellows to share work-in-progress with colleagues from across disciplines—a fertile ground for discussion and discovery.

David Wright
David Wright

English Professor David Wright, who was an HRI faculty fellow in 2017–18, recently published a new story in The New Yorker that saw its first external audience in the HRI Fellows Seminar.

Wright's new work tells the real-life story of Richard Etheridge, the only Black man to lead a lifesaving crew along the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the late 19th century, and his crew’s heroic rescue efforts during a hurricane. Wright imagined Etheridge as a boy, negotiating his relationship with his white father and a future for himself beyond slavery.

"The Fellows Seminar was the first response I had to this work," he said. "A few friends had read the opening paragraphs, but leading up to the Seminar, I had almost no sense of how an audience might respond to a larger section."

"I hadn’t been in a formal writing workshop since grad school and wasn’t particularly keen to have my work be the focus of one ever again," he explained. "But from my early interactions with other fellows, it seemed clear that the responses from colleagues from such varied fields would be useful. So I volunteered to go first. And I wasn’t disappointed—not in the least. The way that scholars tend to approach these sorts of seminars is different from how creative writers do. In creative writing seminar/workshops, the writer remains silent, which is what I did, listening and taking notes. Though unused to this approach, the conversation among the fellows was lively and far reaching and completely, completely illuminating.

"Three years later, my novel is under contract, and an excerpt recently appeared in The New Yorker. I feel much indebted to HRI for helping me get here."

Read the full News Bureau story about Professor Wright's work. Visit The New Yorker to read his story “The Sand Banks, 1861” and the magazine's interview with Wright.

Photo by Jonathan Wei.