The Writers Studio Craft Class

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The Writers Studio’s Craft Class is a nine-week course that meets weekly in New York City during the school’s four sessions. All students begin taking it when they enter their third term of the Level III workshop, but it’s also open to students in Level I and II, and even to those who aren’t enrolled in a workshop.

This class, an integral part of The Writers Studio approach to creative writing, teaches students how to read fiction and poetry as writers. By identifying and closely studying the techniques at play in published work — both contemporary and classic — students discover how literary writers have achieved their artistic goals. In the process, students greatly expand their own knowledge of the writer’s craft, which improves their own writing and sharpens their critical skills. We are never content talking in a general way about the power or prowess of a particular celebrated author. We do something much more useful: we pinpoint how that author’s paragraphs or stanzas were put together to achieve such power. We look at how the narrative or verse moves forward, who the narrator is, what is stated directly and what is left out and why, and how the narrator’s tone plays against the underlying emotion.

Whether or not you attend the class in person, the craft class is available as a subscription audio file on our secure website. You can download it to your computer or MP3 player, and we offer technical assistance for students new to the technology.

It is a lecture class in an informal classroom setting, taught by various Writers Studio teachers and the occasional author as guest teacher, with participation by advanced Writers Studio students.

Each craft class ends with a suggested exercise based on the narrative technique studied that week. These exercises form the basis for the work students bring in to their respective workshops.

Over the years, the reading list for this class has included the short stories, novels and poems of a wide array of venerable and up-and-coming authors, including fiction writers Isaac BabelLucia Berlin, Bonnie Jo Campbell, John Cheever, Anton Chekhov, Juno Diaz, Julia Glass, Clarice Lispector, Thomas Mann, Gabriel García Márquez, Lorrie Moore, Toni Morrison, Akhil Sharma, Gary Shteyngart and John Updike; poets Kim Addonizio, Yehuda Amichai, Elizabeth Bishop, Rita Dove, Jorie Graham, Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, James Tate, Colson Whitehead, Walt WhitmanJames Wright, and Adam Zagajewski.

Listen to a free sample Craft Class podcast: Download

Craft Class Reading List

The students in the craft class I taught with Philip Schultz were not simply trying to get at the meanings of the poems discussed. They were interested in defining techniques in the poems for handling particular kinds of material, techniques they planned to experiment with in an effort to make more of their own experience available in their poems. This practical focus made the discussion particularly lively and engaging.
CARL DENNIS, winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Practical Gods

Most people spend their lives developing defenses against their feelings. The Writers Studio has developed a technique to address that. Everyone can learn to write competently and originally about their experiences.”
PHILIP SCHULTZ, Founder and director of the Writers Studio