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Arts & Entertainment


Joyce Carol Oates

Lesson time 04:07 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.

I am loving this class. I would love to join workshops or more detailed programs where personal attention was possible.

fantastic class, my only wish is that it was longer. it gave me so more more perspective on crafting short stories and thinking about the angles to approach a character or story from.

It has inspired me to continue to write, and to find joy in this process.

I truly enjoyed this class! Joyce Carol Oates is so sweet and smart, funny and insightful that she was a pleasure to watch and listen to. Her comments on the two students' stories were fascinating -- how she took their work into new dimensions and possibilities.


Jo M.

Right off, I felt connected to the teacher. Her style is inviting and intimate even over the remote distancing of digital presentation. I never expected her to be so human in nature, I have admired her narratives for many years. Yet, I supposed I sensed an academic distance that does not exist in this class. Was it because I only experienced her through magazines, journals and novels, all highly polished forms. I am grateful for this experience. By the way, it took me a while to understand the mechanics of this class, so I am responding to the posts a little out of order. :-)

Jane R.

When I saw the trailer for this class everything inside of me screamed to take it. I am so looking forward to seeing how my writing can improve both in habit and formation.

A fellow student

I feel very privileged to be taking a class with Joyce Carol Oates, whom I have always admired. She used to be my very favorite contemporary author (until I encountered Alice Munro). I look forward to learning at the foot of the master.

Kenny R.

Wow what an inspiring introduction much better than the trailer well deserved I'm excited to see where Joyce takes my writing I know its just the beginning, but I never want this to end.

Ethel W.

Why can I not find the resource section? All I can find is "Download the Workbook", which I've already done. In the workbook, it says to download from the resource sections -- which doesn't seem to exist ... There must be something I'm not doing.


JCO talks about what I am really most interested in learning in this Intro. I want to make writing a habit. I feel I should be writing and I'm not doing it. I don't know what I'm afraid of. I hope this course will ease me back into writing.

Sharon J.

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!