How do fiction writers work their magic? Why do some characters stay with you for years? Improve your character development, dialogue, and more through reviews and guidance from an award-winning author.

Jan 18, 2023 - Feb 22, 2023

Levels: All
Workshop Fee: $395
Class Size: 10

Note: This course will be held online using the Zoom Platform, Wednesdays for 6 weeks: Jan 18th, 25th, Feb 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd from 7-9pm EST.

Why do some novels leave you with a feeling of deep satisfaction, while with others, you close the book before hitting Chapter Three? Why do some fictional characters become so real they stay with you for years? In short, how do the writers work their magic—and for writers, how can you learn from them about how to make your own fiction spring to life?

Guided by award-winning author Sarah Van Arsdale, together, we’ll work toward answering these questions by starting with a quick overview of the points of craft, such as character development, dialogue, pacing, and setting. Then we’ll read and discuss one to two short stories and novel excerpts each week. Readings are chosen to reflect a range of styles, backgrounds of the writers, historical period, and country of origin, and will include work by ZZ Packer, Katherine Mansfield, Pedro Mairal, Julio Cortázar, Toni Cade Bambara, Namwali Serpell, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Shirley Jackson. In addition to general discussion, we’ll dig into particular points of craft, which can be applied to your own writing.

Whether you’re new to writing or a seasoned author, this one-day class will get your imagination moving into some fresh and unexpected territory.

Looking to sharpen your writing skills with a one-day workshop? Sarah also teaches Jump Start your Writing (Online).


“Sarah Van Arsdale is a remarkable person who teaches fiction as well as she writes it. From the start of my time as her student, I knew I was in capable hands—she is a role model as an author, a tactful critic as a teacher, and a skilled mentor for those of us starting out and daring to navigate the stormy seas of publishing today” – John Treat, author of First Consonants, forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press.

“Even when a writer is struggling, Sarah offers no prescriptive or rote answers; instead she helps the writer realize their own vision for a piece. She can read in a text the author’s latent intention – even if it’s so latent the writer can’t quite name it herself yet! In a way, she helps decipher what’s on the page already and push writers to the next level.” – Sion Dayson, prize-winning author of As a River

Header image by Nong V.

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Instructor: Sarah Van Arsdale

Sarah Van Arsdale’s sixth book, a poetry collection, was published by Finishing Line Press in October 2021. She is the author of four books of fiction and a single book-length poem, titled The Catamount (Nomadic Press, 2017), illustrated with her watercolors. Her fourth book of fiction, a collection of novellas titled In Case of Emergency, Break Glass, was published by Queens Ferry Press in 2016. Her third novel, Grand Isle, was published by SUNY Press in 2012. Her second, Blue, winner of the 2002 Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel, was published by the University of Tennessee Press in 2003, and her first, Toward Amnesia, was published in 1996 by Riverhead Books.