The on-site workshops at The Writers Studio are organized into five distinct levels.
The beauty of this structure is that the school can serve students with a casual interest or through their entire development as writers, not just the two years typical of MFA programs. Students will always be in class with others at a similar stage of development. Those who have left the school because of time or financial constraints and want to jump back in later are always welcome to return.
Challenge According to Experience
Each level is organized around weekly assignments, and we carefully tailor the assignments to offer a meaningful challenge to that particular level of experience and sophistication.
Of course individual students develop at their own rates, but we have learned over several decades of close observation that everyone passes through certain predictable stages of development. The first stage involves the dawning awareness that we have many writing options open to us beyond the one we may think of as our only “voice.” We help students move past the limitations of diary or stream-of-consciousness writing and into the conscious crafting of work for an audience.
Paradoxically, when students begin to study and imitate some of the myriad methods used by published authors, they tap into material and emotions inside themselves that they may never have had access to before. As students move into Level II, they begin to explore powerful narrative tools such as using the narrator’s tone of voice to create a contrast and tension with the piece’s underlying emotion. In the levels that follow, the assignments grow more challenging technically to meet the increasing sophistication of the class.
Taking Pride in Success
When students have success with a particular exercise, we encourage them to develop the piece into a finished story or poem to submit for publication. We also announce our students’ accomplishments in our occasional emailed updates to our wider community.
How Our Levels Work
All students new to The Writers Studio in New York City and Online start at Level I. In the Hudson Valley, Tucson, San Francisco and Amsterdam, they start with the Workshop level. They can also start with a tutorial. We approach teaching with our own method and vocabulary, so even experienced writers with publications and/or MFAs will find plenty that is new and challenging in Level I.
In the on-site workshops, those who want to continue take a second 10-week term of Level I, at which point they are eligible to move on to Level II. They will be exposed to new exercises each term. After a second term of Level II, students can move on to Level III, which is designed as a three-term sequence. We ask everyone to begin taking our companion Craft Class in the third term of Level III.
Our Unique Craft Class
The Craft Class is a reading and discussion class taught by Writers Studio teachers, designed to complement the workshops by providing extra focus on learning to read like writers. The Craft Class is required in the third term of Level III, but all students are welcome to take it at any stage; we have many devoted Level I students who have found it invaluable. The Craft Class consists of nine-week terms held in New York City and recorded. Students who can’t attend in person take the class by downloading audio files and listening at their convenience. Each term students read an assortment of stories and poems and the occasional novel and poetry collection (Click here for the current Craft Class reading list). They then analyze the texts closely to learn elements of craft that they can bring to their own work. Occasionally the live class will welcome authors to discuss their work and process, and occasionally the class will hold a “Narrative Technique” night in which students in attendance talk informally about their progress and goals for the year. The workshop exercises all originate from Craft Class readings.
The Writers Studio Tutorial Program is a great option for writers who can’t attend weekly workshops, who want to focus entirely on an existing project, or who work best in a more focused one-on-one environment. We ask those interested to fill out an informal questionnaire so that we can suggest a Writers Studio teacher whose interests and expertise will be a good match. While the workshops are limited to students who are at least 18 years old, the tutorials are open to high school-aged writers.
The Branch workshops are set up the same way as the on-site workshops, but we have divided the program into three levels, to accommodate the smaller literary communities. Workshop encompasses the work done in Level I and Level II; Intermediate Workshop is Level III, and Advanced Workshop includes work done in Level IV and the Master Class.
My sense of The Writers Studio is of a warm and intimate yet also challenging and stimulating environment, where lively dialogue and earnest practice proceed side by side. A safe and yet also intense space for writers, where beginners and more advanced practitioners can all flourish.
RACHEL HADAS, award-winning author of Indelible (Wesleyan University Press 2001) and The Golden Road (Triquarterly/Northwestern University 20012)
”The most personal of the programs...”
- The New York Times