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.

I learned great revision points on short stories.

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.

It reminded me of the romance of being a writer writer not just a writer-for-money.

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


Nannez W.

I liked that she was very informative, and broke down how the assignments will be worked.

Rita Lorraine H.

Wow, I LOVED this introduction. Joyce, you're very personable. I would love to be in your class, face to face...but since I can't, this is the next best thing. Thanks so much for being here!

Michele M.

Carol, your brief, encouraging introduction has me keen to begin! Thank you for offering to teach online about short story writing.

Dan U.

Joyce Carol Oates is quite odiously highly intellectual, New England in influence and where she has domiciles herself and I would imagine her writing. We are in for the real deal here as writing is the mastery of several skill sets. I can’t wait to hear her erudite teachings.

Steve E.

Loved it! If you feel you're a writer then you probably are. But, the urge, emotions, insights etc. must be expressed through your 'craft'. Craft is delivery, so I must develop my craft and discipline myself and get the job done. Be it a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or a story, the finished product is the prize...

Jeanette H.

Just had my first short story published and now realize how much I need to learn!

Kyle R.

Currently writing my first short story so looking forward to diving into this today/this weekend!

Mark L.

I am developing a knack for arriving at masterclass.com and discovering a new class, before it's been announced. This will be a great class.