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Arts & Entertainment


Joyce Carol Oates

Lesson time 04:05 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.

I love how calmly and fluidly Joyce expresses her feelings about writing. She seeks truth but also fun, which seems so important for a young writer. Not being scared away. I really enjoyed this.

She explains very clearly about her writing. I enjoyed a lot.

She is a mistress of stories. One of my favorite authors. Her certainty and suggestions gave me more confidence.

At my advanced age, it is now or never. I am excited by Joyce Carol Oates' Masterclass. Now I will begin a lifelong dream. I feel so happy.


Karen C.

As another student also mentioned, I gave this class as a gift to myself in the time of COVID19, when my April birthday was disappointing. It has been the perfect gift. I loved everything about it from the workshopped stories to the final 4-minute closing which I found so inspiring. Thank you Joyce Carol Oates for sharing your immense knowledge with me.

J.C. S.

Joyce Carol Oates thank you! Because of you I'm now a 56 year-old man reading at a 58-year old level. I found your words inspirational, especially the adverbs. Thank you for sharing your story and in doing so, illuminating the rather shadowy and mysterious process of delving into the creative intelligence surrounding us or inside of us, and pulling out a story we can share with all. Would love to take your class some day.


I enjoyed this series of lectures, thank you, except for the workshops of the student's stories. I didn't enjoy their stories but that's just personal taste.

Kristel G.

I really enjoyed this MasterClass. Very intelligent and witty! Thank you Ms. Oates :)

A fellow student

It was an insightful and enjoyable learning experience, thank you so much!

kristin F.

During these pandemic times, I'd been dreading the thought of spending my birthday alone. On a whim, I decided to do this class as a present to myself. Surprisingly, it saved the day for me! I spend hours with Ms Oates, absorbing her wisdom, experience and insights. It ended up being a brilliant idea! Instead of depressed, I felt inspired to get back to writing and finish up my book. I couldn't have asked for better company!

Elise H.

Thank you, I've learned a lot from this course! The assignments were helpful too.

Carol R.

A beautiful, gentle guidance into becoming a writer by simply looking inward and sharing your own humanity.

Mary K.

Perhaps this is a good class for a novice writer, but most of what Oates said was fairly standard, not enlightening. She also speaks from a really privileged place where the writer has a choice to work in a "room with a view" and only needs to produce one short story (or book, which would be good) a year. I think I would have benefited hearing more about her process than sitting through the workshop.

Chris F.

Wonderful classes from Joyce Carol Oates. Exceptional advice and guidance, delivered in such a warm and empathetic way!