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Yale Writers' Workshop 2021 Course Descriptions

Two-Week Workshop

In the Two-Week Workshop you will participate in workshops, lectures, individual conferences and readings intended to broaden your understanding of the craft of writing. Visiting faculty will deliver craft talks to all workshop participants. Because we write to be read, we will have panels of agents and editors to provide insight into the publishing process and the realities of the writer’s life. You are invited to participate in open mics and a formal reading of their work. During the session, faculty will hold half-hour, one-to-one meetings with participants

Workshop Times: (All times listed below are Eastern Standard Time)

  • Fiction with Jotham Burrello: 9 am-11 am
  • Fiction with Lisa Page:1 pm-3 pm
  • Fiction with Kristin Bair: 9 am-11 am
  • Non Fiction with Mary Collins: 9 am-11 am
  • Non Fiction with Mishka Shubaly: 1 pm-3 pm
  • Intensive (Alumni Only) with Kirsten Bakis: 1 pm-3 pm 

One-Week Workshop

The One-Week Workshop is intended for writers concentrating on a specific genre. Over five days, you will meet in a seminar with fellow writers, led by a faculty member established in the field. The seminar will include exercises and readings as well as discussion of student work. During the session, faculty will hold half-hour, one-to-one meetings with participants. Plus, during this virtual year, the one-week workshop includes agent and literary editor panels! You are invited to participate in open mics and a formal reading of their work

Workshop Times: (All times listed below are Eastern Standard Time)

  • Children and Young Adult with Sarah Darer Littman: 9 am-11 am
  • Short Story with Jacquelyn Mitchard: 9 am-11 am
  • First Ten Pages with Sybil Baker: 1 pm-3 pm
  • Personal Essay/Memoir with Lary Bloom: 1 pm-3 pm
  • Write Here, Write Now with Patricia Ann McNair: 1 pm-3 pm
  • Fiction with Molly Gaudry: 1 pm-3 pm

Alumni Workshop: Work-in-Progress Intensive - Workshop Times: 1 pm-3 pm

Offered for YWW alumni only, this two-week workshop allows alumni to work with an instructor on a work in progress.


Kristin Bair

Whether your characters are traveling through time, aisle 8 in the grocery store, or a broken relationship, we’ll look closely in this workshop at what makes them tick and how to strengthen their presence on the page. In addition, we’ll explore voice, setting, dialogue, conflict, and more. Writers will read, write, discuss craft, and return to their desks with revision strategies and fresh ideas. (Workshop Time 9 am - 11 am)

Jotham Burrello

Read, Write, Workshop, Revise, Repeat. The classroom is our lab to experiment and take risks on the page. In this seminar writers will complete assigned reading prior to conference. Online we’ll establish a supportive environment, and together we’ll workshop stories in the first week and then dedicate time in week two to revision exercises, reading work aloud, journaling and discussion of craft. Expect to write during the two weeks. Writers will leave with a revision strategy for their manuscript or novel excerpt, and a full toolbox of ideas and techniques to help write the next story. (Workshop Time 9 am - 11 am)

Lisa Page

"Art comes from the white hot center of you.” —Robert Olen Butler
Good writing comes from the white-hot center of the imagination. Language is the engine that drives the literary train. This fiction workshop will focus on style and structure, voice, persona, tone and setting. It will also focus on narrative arc. This workshop will embrace novels-in-progress, short stories and flash fiction. It will also incorporate writing exercises designed to generate new work. (Workshop Time 1 pm - 3 pm)


Kirsten Bakis

Work-In-Progress Intensive. This unique two-week workshop is designed for writers working on book-length material taught by YWW faculty member Kirsten Bakis. This cohort of just eight writers will meet and write for two weeks. This program is open to YWW alumni only. In week one writers will critique 7000 words from their fellow writers’ manuscripts. Exercises and readings will be assigned prior to arrival. Week two will be generative, a mini-retreat if you will, with writers developing new material, and reading back at least 1500 words in session. The cohort will meet virtually to discuss progress, and strategies to completing confident first drafts. This is a competitive program. Please submit an excerpt of writing you plan to work on during the intensive with your application.  (Workshop Time 1 pm - 3 pm)

Non Fiction

Mary Collins

How do you write about people you know? How do you mine your own personal life for stories and insights that will engage the average reader? This seminar will explore the challenges unique to the personal essay and memoir with a special focus on voice, creative angles, emotional depth, experimental structures, and good storytelling. Writers will complete assigned readings prior to the conference that showcase a range of forms and styles from the personal essay to the lyric essay. The workshop itself will be a blend of rigorous discussions of students’ submissions and interactive craft exercises designed to challenge writers to move out of their comfort zones and experience the joy of discovery as they try new things and encourage others to do the same. Students will leave the workshop with a clear strategy for their next best steps as writers. (Workshop Time 9 am - 11 am)

Mishka Shubaly

We understand fiction to be made-up and nonfiction to be true. But any linear narrative is a human construction, as life explodes constantly in all directions. Any first person narrative is a distorted, imperfect retelling from one limited perspective. To make it more confusing, Grace Paley's fiction and Lucia Berlin's autofiction overflow with truth while Mary Karr's and Harry Crews' memoirs seem too wild or too evocative to be true. Where's the line? How much can we get away with? How can anyone tell “true” stories? This workshop will locate the emotional heart of your narrative, then identify and amplify the truth that spills from it. We’ll be aided in our quest by readings across genre, songs, jokes, and other real-life texts. (Workshop Time 1 pm - 3 pm)

Molly Gaudry

For this workshop, you may submit a wide range of fiction forms—traditional short stories or novel chapters, stories toward a novel-in-stories, interconnected flash fictions, flash fictions that stand alone, even fragmented or braided narratives. Plan to read and discuss a variety of published works as models for your own revisions. You will leave our time together eager to get back to work on your own revisions, able to apply knowledge and skills developed at Yale to your future writing projects, and with a clearer understanding of the functional relationship between form and content. (Workshop time 1 pm - 3 pm)

Children and Young Adult

Sarah Darer Littman

Get Real! Finding your authentic children’s and young adult voice

How is it that a “woman of a certain age” gets fan mail from middle school kids asking questions like: “How do you know EXACTLY what teenage girls think, in the present day? I know you were once one too, but … you have really captured the inner thoughts of a teenage girl.” We were all either boys or girls once, and through writing exercises and discussion, we’ll tap into the thoughts and emotions which can be applied when writing about situations and challenges that young people face today. The workshop will focus on writing, group discussions, and critiquing in a constructive and supportive environment. (Workshop Time 9 am - 11 am)

First Ten Pages: Fiction and Memoir

Sybil Baker

The first five to ten pages of a manuscript often determine whether an agent, editor, or reader wants to see more of your work. Whether you are just beginning or revising it for the fifth time, chances are your first ten pages could still use revision and feedback at the sentence and content level. In addition to getting feedback on your own work, we will look at openings of notable recent books, and discuss what makes those openings successful. We will also spend time in class sessions discussing and applying revision strategies for the beginning of your work as well as ways to map the rest of your story.  (Workshop Time 1 pm - 3 pm)

Personal Essay/Memoir

Lary Bloom

Over the decades, the writers in these categories, argued Tom Wolfe, have sought to take the literary high ground. How so?  In this workshop, we explore the evolving art of writing from the intensely personal point of view, and how to make such work resonate and appeal to readers (and agents and publishers). Mystery authors talk about knowing “the key,” that is, the twist, before they start. For writers of personal work, “the key” is different. It is a “religious experience” without the religion. It is the dramatic experience that can enrich and inspire. Workshop participants learn here how to lure readers to that same climactic moment, and become open to the meaning and application of it, through tools once used primarily by novelists: story arc, dialogue, character description and development, and even fantasy and imagination. (Workshop Time: 1 pm -3 pm)

Short Stories

Jacquelyn Mitchard

This workshop will concentrate on further developing sophistication in the building blocks of fiction, including structure, point of view and characterization. In addition to discussing selected readings emphasizing each element, the group will critique each other’s short submissions and participate in exercises and short lectures to sharpen the understanding and critical command of narrative choices.  (Workshop Time 9 am - 11 am)

Write Here, Write Now

Patricia Ann McNair

Whether you are new to the writing workshop experience or coming back to it after time away, the process-based activities in this course will help you identify and discover the stories you have to tell and to write. Eager to create new work? Reinvigorate on-going or left-behind projects? In any case, this workshop is for you. Drawing from memory, imagination, and observation, writers will discover their own unique material and a variety of ways of telling, structure, and form. And we will write! Designed to inspire all sorts of prose—wholly imaginative, autobiographical, or something in between—these creative explorations will feed the muse. Workshop members will receive an assignment to complete ahead of the workshop to email to the instructor before the course starts. There will be NO critique of peers' work prior to arrival; time will be spent creating instead. When we begin our virtual workshop, writers will complete exercises and read aloud work in progress for group discussion. You'll leave with new pages written and strategies to keep going.  (Workshop Time 1 pm - 3 pm)