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.

I loved watching and listening to Ms. Oates share her journey and tips. Now, I want to go back and actually do the workbook and homework. One of the main new ideas I got was writing a one event short story. I'll probably go through this class at least 3 times. I've already told my daughter who wants to write fiction, that this is a must do class. Joyce Carol Oates, thank you. Namaste'

I've learned to take pleasure in and make discoveries through writing again, as I did as a child.

It is always fascinating how writers differ one for the other, and, in a way, they share similar ways of doing things. This class, again, was very helpful, and a great follow up to the Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman ones. Cheers.

Joyce Carol Oates has a subtle, between-the-lines approach that goes down like candy. I feel I've come away with greater intuitive knowledge.


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

Lipe R.

Excelente Masterclass. Aprendi bastante, o que é mais importante. Abriu meus olhos para muitos enfoques que eu não tinha ou não percebia, sendo que estavam logo ali. Thank you Joyce!


Thanks Joyce for taking the time to teach us about the craft of writing short stories. It's where I am at the moment. I'm in the process of editing my first novel and my goal, once it's completed, to start writing short stories. I come from a songwriting background and the context of the short story is a perfect way to learn my craft. Thank you so much for sharing. Take care. Anselm <><

Nancy P.

I watched this class in two sessions, one long and one to finish. I will go back to it and review the story review workshop session again after I read the downloadable story. I found it extremely valuable in every way: from a practical standpoint, many specific strategies are offered. From the "inspiration" standpoint, it also was rich with her authentic voice about the writing process. So much resonated with me about what I have found to be true in my own writing practice. Finally, the production value is superb, and really adds so much to the class. Situating in a study type atmosphere (although does not seem to be her study at home in Princeton), it still exudes a peace and authentic place. I love how she honors the creative process, and brings note to that in her final comments. A truly wonderful experience, and I only wish I had tapped in to my Masterclass subscription sooner. I'm going to explore more of them in the time I have remaining, and I may consider renewing if I see enough others that engage me.

Roberta H.

That was beautiful. Loved these classes. Feel like I learned a lot that I can bring to my writing.

Tracey F.

This was fantastic! Thank you so much. I'm so grateful for "permission" to write for pleasure. I think we all put too much pressure on ourselves to produce something wonderful too soon and then when it's not "wonderful" right away we (I anyway) get discouraged. It's nice to be reminded that the reward is just in the writing. Good luck to all!

Marilyn M.

« So she sat on, with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality » (Alice in Wonderland, LC.) Thank you Ms Oates for this wonderful adventure !

A fellow student

Wow, this Masterclass was really good and inspiring. As an aspiring writer who’s especially fond of short stories, I had been looking forward to this a lot and am more than satisfied. I hadn’t really read anything by Oates and was positively surprised by her combination of straightforward writing tips and more abstract analyses of the craft. All these lessons made me feel even more passionate towards and motivated to write many, many stories throughout my life. I was also very happy to see that the workbook was so thorough, and really complemented the videos well. I got lots of interesting recommendations for further reading, as well as an easy-to-understand summary of the whole class. Kudos to both Joyce Carol Oates and Masterclass. This is invaluable wisdom! Now, on to Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman...

Mariem O.

So very grateful to have gone on this journey and learnt so much from a master of short fiction. My deepest thanks to you Joyce Carol Oates.