Skip To Content
May 17–June 17, 2021. The Novella Workshop with Sharon Oard Warner is a Course

May 17–June 17, 2021. The Novella Workshop with Sharon Oard Warner

Time limit: 60 days

Spots remaining: 2

$600 Enroll

Full course description


The Novella Workshop with Sharon Oard Warner (Five–Week Workshop)


This workshop meets twice weekly:

Mondays and Thursdays on Zoom: May 17–June 17, 2021 

5:30–7:00 p.m. Iowa/Central Time (6:30–8:00 Eastern; 3:30–5:00 Pacific; 4:30–6:00 Mountain)

Fee: $600


Later, we’ll sort out the specifics. For now, let’s say the novella is an extended work of fiction: long enough for the reader to get lost in but short enough to be consumed in a single, longish sitting. (Yes, for the convenience of publishers, novellas are often marketed as novels.) They don’t take up much space. Stow one in your purse or slip it in your back pocket. Read as you wait in line for coffee.

If you’re anything like me, some of your favorite books are novellas, classics like Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote, The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck or To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.  And, you’re probably partial to contemporary novellas as well: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon, Red at the Bone by Jacquelyn Woodson, A House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. And I’m just getting started.

Novellas used to be considered awkward—too long to fit comfortably in the pages of most literary magazines and too short to be published alone. But, in our current culture, the novella is, as Debra Sparks has said, “Goldilocks form, not too much this and not too much that but just right.”

Course Description

The class is appropriate for fiction writers who have completed at least a handful of short stories and are now contemplating a larger project, something that requires a sturdy narrative arc. Ours will be a safe space for trying on ideas, introducing characters, and asking lots of questions.

Expect to spend several hours a week reading and writing in preparation for our twice-weekly sessions. If you’re already percolating a plot, you can get a head start on the class. We will be using my craft book, Writing the Novella (2021), which provides writing prompts, a story map, and lots of advice for moving forward.

Rather than working with structural units like chapters (novellas don’t usually have them), we will focus on the narrative arc and the key scenes. In the last four weeks of class, we will spend half of each session workshopping your scenes. Thus, you should expect to workshop one scene per week or four scenes in total. Why work with scenes? Because scenes are the building blocks of all narratives, regardless of form. They have beginnings, middles, and ends, which means they lend themselves to discussion and evaluation. But they’re not as lengthy as a chapter or a story.

Course Objectives:

During our five-week class, participants will explore the novella form and its history, identify a touchstone novella, create a story map and draft four key scenes or plot points. Our twice-weekly Zoom workshops—each scheduled for 90 minutes—will begin with a round-table discussion generated by the reading. Then, we’ll move on to the workshop. The last fifteen minutes or so will be devoted to questions, observations, and concerns.

Each participant will meet with me for a thirty-minute consultation—either early on in the class or shortly before it ends. Just let me know your preference.

What to Do in Advance:

Begin by browsing your bookshelves for thin spines. Look for your favorite novellas—those you’ve read recently and those you loved as a teenager, The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton or maybe The Giver by Lois Lowry. And try reading one or more of the novellas I use as touchstones in Writing the Novella: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.


Sharon Oard Warner is the author of two novels, a short story collection, and an edited anthology of stories on AIDS. Her craft book, Writing the Novella, was published in March, 2021. Warner’s essays and articles have appeared in The AWP ChronicleThe WriterWriter’s DigestStudies in Short FictionStudies in the Novel, and others. Many of those articles went on to be republished in The Year’s Best Writing on WritingThe Writer’s HandbookWriter’s Digest YearbookThe Writer’s Guide to Fiction: How to Write, Polish, and Publish Short Stories and Novels, Short Story Criticism and others. From 1999–2016, Sharon founded and directed the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference, one of the largest such gatherings in the country. Warner is Emerita Professor of English Language & Literature at the University of New Mexico and Co-Chair for the D. H. Lawrence Ranch Initiatives. She lives with her husband in Austin, Texas, where she is working on a book about Texas sculptress Elisabet Ney.

Registration & Fees

The fee for this course is $600. Payment in full is required to register.

Registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Enrollment for this class opens at 11:00 a.m. Central Time, Monday, April 26.

Class size is limited to 10.

Note: Your credit card payment will be processed by an external provider and will appear on your credit card statement as “UI Writing—Magid Center.” 

Refund & Cancellation Policy

If you need to cancel your enrollment in a Festival class, please let us know as soon as possible. We can only offer full refunds if you cancel two weeks prior to the start of class. After that, before the start date of class, we can offer a 50% refund. We cannot refund day-of cancellations, and we cannot refund or partially refund tuition once the class has begun.

Terms & Community Policy

The Iowa Summer Writing Festival is a community built on an assumption of shared enterprise, in the spirit of mutual respect. We reserve the right to a) revoke the registration of or b) dismiss from the program any person who disrupts the learning/working environment of others. Participants in the Festival are subject to all University of Iowa policies governing conduct in our community, whether online or in person.



Contact the Iowa Summer Writing Festival: Phone: (319) 335-4160.

Our tiny staff is working remotely. If you phone and we miss you, please leave a message!