Writing, Community & Government

Writer’s Workshop: Finding Your Voice

Roxane Gay

Lesson time 09:49 min

In this writing workshop, Roxane gives feedback to Andi, a writer looking to get a piece of short fiction to the next stage of revision after a long period of being on the shelf.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Andi


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Voice is something that we all have. A lot of writers say, where do I find my voice? And the answer is, you already have a voice. You may not know where it is or how to use it, but it's there. And for me voice is something that I developed. And I developed it by putting in the work of writing. And, of course, earlier in my career, I think a lot of my writing was imitative. I was heavily influenced by Raymond Carver growing up and I became obsessed because he was telling these stories that were so vivid and so expansive, but he was using the most spare prose. And I just loved that. And I just thought, how do I do that? And I still tend to be something of a minimalist in my work. But a lot of my early writing was spare because Raymond Carver was spare. Even when your work is imitative, you're writing toward your voice and toward understanding what your voice is and what it sounds like and how to most effectively use it. And the thing I like about my work is that no matter what you read from me, no matter what genre, in general, you're going to know you're reading a Roxane Gay piece. And I think that's what every writer needs to find for themselves. It's not that you write the same thing over and over, but you have a voice. And so no matter what you're writing, your work is recognizable. It's the invisible watermark where people can put whatever name they want on it, but people know who really wrote it. And when you find that, in general, you're going to just-- you're going to feel it in your gut. You're just going to know, Okay, this is it. [MUSIC PLAYING] Hi Andi, I'm Roxane. - Hello. ROXANE GAY: It's great to have you here today. We're going to be talking about a short story. And I have to say, I actually critique fiction and nonfiction in much the same way because prose is prose, but I would love for you to read a few paragraphs from your story for us. - Sure. Tell me the story, Sophie asks, her head sunk deep into her pillow, shading the sides of her face from the tiny nightlight lamp with the cherry orange shade. The blanket is tucked up tight around her chin. I'm sitting on the edge of the bed looking at her. As bright as her eyes are when she asks for the story, I know that at some point in its telling she will fall asleep. She always does. I discovered the story in a bookstore downtown that I visited on my way home from work one evening. After about 20 minutes of browsing, I saw a book of Russian folktales and flipped to a story about an old king, a talking horse, a firebird, the Queen of the East, and a woefully unlucky knight named Ivan Sadovich. That evening, after tucking Sophie into bed, she asked for a story so I told her this one. It's a meandering story that knots upon itself several times. In a nutshell, Ivan Sadovich is a helpless protagonist being tormented with quests from a spiteful king, a talking horse, Ivan's partner, who is the brains of the outfit, and the Queen ...

About the Instructor

Bestselling author, professor, and New York Times columnist Roxane Gay has connected to readers around the world with her unyielding truth-telling and highly personal feminism. In her MasterClass, she teaches you how to own your identity, hone your voice, write about trauma with care and courage, and navigate the publishing industry. Learn how to document and narrate the world as you see it—and then demand change.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Roxane Gay

Bestselling author and cultural critic Roxane Gay teaches writing for social change and arms you with the skills needed to make an impact.

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