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.

That writing is a creative Art. That central to a good short story is an Idea that surprises. To venture into the unknown, the secret world, and take your reader for the trip.

Loved it! She was so kind and patient while sharing her experiences and insights with us and the workshop students. Hope to meet her in person one day!

First of all, Joyce Carol Oates is my all time favorite author for short stories. I'm going to view the class again because there were too many good things to digest in once class.

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


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

Meg R.

Really looking forward to just getting on and doing, rather than procrastinating about writing short stories!

A fellow student

great to learn from the ones that actually did it. So different from mere theory


I am very excited about this class, actually it’s the first one I’m taking in the MasterClass community ❤️

Kasy L.

I look forward to taking this class. I'm glad it'll be structured similarly to her class at Princeton.


i passed out while watching the lessons and now masterclass assumess i'm a writer. what do ? oh well. i'll watch everything again.

Cynthia H.

I liked the opening - leading with art. This captured my attention. Looking forward to taking her course!

Paisley B.

I'm here taking this master class because of the clarity and candor presented in this intro, and I'm absolutely giddy. With unfinished work laying about and more inside me trying to get out, I am beside myself with excitement and hope to zero in on great technique, helpful habits, and a mental focus that will aid me on this journey. Thank you, Joyce Carol Oates, for doing this!

Elizabeth H.

I really like how she presents the class and the process. I am looking forward to the subsequent lessons.

Jackie L.

It was a comforting message meant to engage with the simple facts of the class. It also was, hopefully, indicative of the clarity of the class, and to give us something to prepare as a beginning.