Joyce Carol Oates

Lesson time 4:11 min

Joyce shares her parting words, advising how to select a place to write that makes you feel inspired and how to continue finding joy in the writing process.

Joyce Carol Oates
Teaches the Art of the Short Story
Literary legend Joyce Carol Oates teaches you how to write short stories by developing your voice and exploring classic works of fiction.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - I have to have a study where I have a window. And I have to look out the window. And I spend a lot of time looking out the window. And if I have to face a wall, I'm not happy. And I'm not feeling that I want to sit there. In any room, I always go to the window. And I gravitate to the window. Now it sounds maybe a little naive or silly, but I feel that all those aids are part of the imagination. There's some reason why I need to look out the window at a beautiful scene. I don't want to look at an air shaft or a parking lot. So I'm sitting there with my laptop. And I'm writing. And I feel that the surpassing beauty of the physical world is helping me. If I were facing a wall, I would feel trapped and captive. I would feel like a rat in a cage. I wouldn't be happy. So in Princeton, I have a window looking out and a lot of green. And I put my garden in with color. Yellow is important. And red, and some blue, and purple. And I put those colors in deliberately so that I look at them. And I move geraniums around. So if I'm sitting there and some birds fly by or a neighbor cat walks through, sometimes there's a fox. And I'm afraid sometimes it's a groundhog coming in the garden. So then I actually run down and chase the groundhog away. But the idea of the natural world coming into the window down on the second floor, to me, that's part of this whole mystery process. Like I don't know what I'm going to see out the window. And that's part of the writing. I think one of the main things to remember when you're writing is that writing should be pleasurable. It should be fun. It should be exploratory. You should be writing about things that surprise you. So you wake up in the morning-- before you get up actually and open your eyes, think very excitedly about what you're going to be working on. And feel that something surprising, and novel, and maybe a little startling or even shocking will happen before noon. And it will happen in your writing. And nobody knows about it but you, because writing is like a spiritual manifestation of something deep within us. We don't really know is there. So it's like a painter painting work that is so beautiful but inchoate and putting it out on a canvas and other people can see it. So it's analogous to that. Then another thing you should remember is as you write that writing is not done in one day. You're not going to write a novel in one week. You won't write a brilliant short story in two weeks. And it should obviously be the case that you don't have to be prolific. If you write one really brilliant short story a year, that's great. If you write one novel at all, you know, that's really all that one expects. I have no expectations of anything in my own life, because I was the first person in my whole family even to graduate from high school. Nobody had any expectations from me. My parents didn't expect anything of me. I think that that's really a blessing. So I wo...

Find your voice in fiction

The author of some of the most enduring fiction of our time, Joyce Carol Oates has published 58 novels and thousands of short stories, essays, and articles. Now the award-winning author and Princeton University creative writing professor teaches you how to tap into your storytelling instincts. Find ideas from your own experiences and perceptions, experiment with structure, and improve your craft, one sentence at a time.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Joyce Carol Oates really inspired me with many ideas about writing as an exercise, developing creativity and it's very helpful in developing a consciousness about writing as a continuous work in progress and a way of life. Great class!

My first Masterclass with JCO was so well-presented that I purchased all access for myself, gifted two others, and sing praises about your offerings.

I enjoyed this masterclass. There's a lot of information on craft, on the tiny decisions that go into the making of a story. I especially enjoyed the workshops. Overall, a great experience.

Brilliant. Inspiring. I've seen so many ads for these classes but this is the one that grabbed me and I'm so glad it did. I just followed my gut.


Carole K.

Absolutely stunning and beautifully conceived. She takes you through the pleasure of writing, even in the darkness and intensity there is a light deliciousness. Generous and in-depth.

A fellow student

Valuable insights on the art and craft of writing sustained my attention throughout this Masterclass.

Angela T.

Joyce Carol Oates is clearly still in love with the process of writing, which is refreshing and remarkable. She is very motivating and encouraging.


Great masterclass. It's given me much to consider and many ideas to explore and experiment with.

Lester P.

I enjoyed this Masterclass. It was instructive and detailed in the reviewing of the short stories. I have decided to re-read my older short stories, and re-write them from different perspectives as Joyce suggested. I am excited to delve into more experimentation. Thank you most sincerely.

Elaine H.

I left this class feeling encouraged to write again. Somehow listening to Joyce Carol Oates awakens me as a writer. Her method of teaching is not only extremely helpful but she leaves one with the sense that writing is possible for ANYONE who is determined to express and tell life through stories. I just love and appreciate everything she brings to this forum of learning.

Kasy L.

This was a very helpful and encouraging class. I loved listening to Joyce Carol Oates and her strategies. I am more inspired to write short stories than I was before starting the class. Thank you!

Enrique C.

I followed the class bit by bit, assignment by assignment, and I loved it. Thank you!

Vicki H.

I learned so much, thank you!!! I've got so many stories hidden just waiting to come out. You've given me the nudge that I needed to get busy!!!

Yani T.

I enjoyed it but not very familiar with the whole process of the masterclass lessons