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.

She is hard when sharing her opinions about the students work... Thanks!

I love Joyce Carol Oates' style of teaching. I'm completely enthralled listening to her.

I learned so much from this Masterclass. Joyce Carol Oates is an incredible teacher. I feel inspired and more capable of writing short stories using the tools that she has offered us. I'm so very thankful this class exists, I will definitely come back for a refresher.

I learned great revision points on short stories.


Victoria W.

Thank you so much Joyce! I have been writing a book since 2012, my first ever and it has been fun and challenging. Joyce really showed me the beauty and freedom of creative writing and short stories that has lite a new fire under me. I loved her way of teaching and all her new ideas of creative writing. My eyes have been permanently opened. I can not wait to rewrite my book in short story form and see what comes of it. Thank you!

Rebecca E.

Thank you so much for this inspiring Masterclass, Joyce Carol ! Loved every bit of it and will watch it over again. Very helpful insights. Thank you from my heart!

Rixanne (Rikki) H.

I didnt want it to end, yes have to watch again. thankyou for sharing with us.

Mary S.

I loved this class; I may take it over again. I wrote one piece of flash fiction (that I really like) during the time I was in this class, and wrote a couple of 'beginnings'. I really needed this boost in my writing life.


It was such a privilege taking this masterclass, I enjoyed every minute of it. Writing short stories is not so scary now but an exciting prospect. I look forward to stretching my imagination and improving in this type of craft. Thank you, Joyce, for your magnificent guidance.

Steve E.

As with all the other lessons I found this one to be enlightening and helpful in seeing the world and the writing process through her eyes. Short of working on my 'craft' which will come, I feel inspired with a sense of creativity and desire to get some writing done. I'd say that in this lesson as in the others, Ms Oates' intention and goals have been reached.


Loved the whole thing. I've learned so much and have already noticed an improvement in my writing. Thanks JCO... see you next time.

Donald D.

As a fairly reclusive writer, I found the suggestion of having my work critiqued in a workshop daunting. Now, seeing Joyce interacting with actual short story writers, I can see how essential it is to get someone else's eyes into your works in progress. Its good to be able to go through the process by proxy before going through the real thing in person.


Great class, I learned a lot. I remember a TV movie years ago with (I think) Laura Dern (can't remember the name of the movie) or much else about it except for a scene of her hiding under the stairs and a man telling her she's going to come with him - and she does, but it was the first thing that popped into my head when you started talking about the premise of Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? As in as soon as you started reading excerpts, that scene popped into my head. Anyway, great class, thank you.

Mary S.

Not sure if my review went through on the last attempt. Let me just say again that JCO has been my inspiration for reading choices and for my own writing for over thirty years. I was hooked since I read her novel, Them, as I was moving to Detroit in 1987! It was surreal to have her on my laptop, on my kitchen counter, like a visiting friend speaking to ME! Her words were magically practical and I think I know what to do now. Thank you, JCO. You are a most lovely mentor. A born teacher, no doubt about it!