Joyce Carol Oates

Lesson time 3:58 min

Meet your new instructor: Joyce Carol Oates, the National Book Award–winning author of 58 novels and thousands of short stories. Joyce welcomes you and discusses the enduring importance of short fiction.

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] JOYCE CAROL OATES: I've always felt that art is the highest expression of the human spirit, and art is the way that we communicate with one another. But that instinct to transcend the particular and the finite and to reach for something universal-- that speaks to people across generations. I think that is the instinct for all kinds of art. But I think a born writer wants to tell a story, and that instinct to tell stories is very natural. All you need to do, really, is to take their instrument and transform it into a craft. So if anyone who's listening to me feels that he or she is a writer, you probably are. [MUSIC PLAYING] This class is not-- not about theory or philosophical background so much as it is about the craft of writing and-- and getting you habituated to writing because we all have stories to tell, but some people just don't have the form quite yet. The MasterClass follows the outline of my class-- my undergraduate fiction-writing class at Princeton University. So I've been teaching there for many years, and it's the same syllabus that we go through, like 12, 15 weeks, with the short assignments-- beginning with really short paragraph-- page, two pages. So it's basically working with telling stories, which is my anthology, which is for writers, because when you're a writer, you're not reading just for pleasure. You're reading as a writer, so you have a special eye for prose. I have a great love for fiction, which I hope I can share with-- with you. And we're going to begin with shorter forms. And we're going to be focusing on just the act of writing-- the short narrative can be like one paragraph long-- and move into writing as you might move into a fast-moving river, where you're just take a little step at first, then another step, and another step. And you get acclimated to what you're doing, and get to love writing, and-- and feel-- always, you should be having a good time writing. As time goes on, you may take on more complicated projects, but in the beginning, the assignments are very short. And you may even be working in fields like memoir, or journal, and diary that are not necessarily fiction, but your use for fiction. Writing is a process. At the end, there may be a product. There may be a book or a story. That's the product. But you are living in the process. And the product is what is in the future. But a short story is-- is the best form for starting off. I'm Joyce Carol Oates, and this is my MasterClass. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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.

Hearing in the workshop segments that the writer could explain or linger on a point that was important so that it wasn't "anti-climatic" was helpful to me.

Amazing writing class, and her voice is so smooth I've followed this mainly before going to bed. So relaxing and inspiring!

Excellent insights and helpful tips for writing short form prose!

Excellent MasterClass with Joyce Carol Oates -- instructive, engaging, accessible and illuminating. I am her new biggest fan! Thank you.


A fellow student

Joyce makes aging beautiful, I want to grow up just like her. "writing should always be joyful..."


Taking this After Neil Gaiman's MasterClass, because he suggested Short Stories, and I need to build up the writing confidence to get going ALREADY!

Roc S.

I love it when she says, "A born writer wants to tell stories," and "So if anyone listening to me feels that he or she is a writer, you probably are." This is an awesome encouragement! I am really looking forward to taking her class.

Meg N.

A lovely introduction, full of ideas that build up hope that I, too, can develop the craft of writing. I've written non-fiction, and short essays to set the mood for, for example, a newsletter being sent out. I'm looking forward to developing what I need to make the particulars into something universal and if possible, transcendent. Thank you!


Lovely introduction, Joyce. You sit and converse within your own body with such accustomed grace. Thank you for acknowledging (or rather letting me acknowledge) that I am a writer. Although I have one book published, it is not fiction. My first short story was written at age 7, and it was titled "The lost kitten". When my mother discovered it, she gave it to my father and they both made me read it out loud in front of a tape recorder. I don't know what happened to that tape. I was humiliated for some reason, and felt that maybe they misunderstood. My second short story was in the high school newspaper. I enjoyed the many compliments I received at the time. I never wrote another story, and stuck mostly to turning poems. I am glad to hear that a short story can be many different things, and that novelty is a key factor for readers. Thank you so much.

James B.

Great introduction! It is such a privilege to participate in a course led by Joyce Carol Oates.

A fellow student

I am happy That I am let here. I am working on my first book, short stories about my awakenings, after a crises at age 54 there was no way out anaymore, serious stuff for me, because I had so many beautiful and sometimes though calls. I never knew That I had it in me to share through writing. It is what I am supposed to do. So it is all new to me and I am very exited to learn. Henriette


I feel welcomed and supported by Ms. Oates already! Looking forward to getting down to brass tacks!

Tom B.

This is my second workshop, I took a readers digest workshop where I completed a first draft to a short story but I favor this masterclass.

Robert C.

Hi, I just started my first Masterclass here. I’m thrilled to connect with fellow classmates as our paths cross along our journey. I've been channeling and writing about my whisperings with my late Hong Kong-born Portuguese wife and guardian angel, Brenda José - since she 'crossed over' in 2013. I promised her in her last 25 minutes of her life that I will fulfil our Twin Soul mission. Brenda sent me countless afterlife signs - at least 11 were irrefutable and can't be explained. Took me a year to decipher Brenda's basic angelic code. Writing was and still is very healing for me. I'm a 'Doubting Thomas' - I have so many self-doubts. Because death is a taboo subject, I scared and lost some friends. It's been nearly 6 years. And I'm grateful to be lead here - to learn how to write from Masters like JCO. I trust the process. I'll definitely get into JCO Community discussions, get feedback and editing input for my writing. Warmest regards, Robert