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Story Factory: A Craft Course for Writers of Fiction & Nonfiction. Karen Bender, Instructor is a Course

Story Factory: A Craft Course for Writers of Fiction & Nonfiction. Karen Bender, Instructor

May 6, 2023 - Jun 10, 2023

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Full course description



Story Factory: A Craft Course for Writers of Fiction & Nonfiction (Six-Week Workshop)


Karen Bender, Instructor 




Saturdays on Zoom, May 6—June 10, 2023 


  • 11:00 a.m.–1:30 p.m. Iowa/Central Time
  • 12:00–2:30 p.m. Eastern Time
  • 9:00–11:30 a.m. Pacific Time
  • 10:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Mountain Time



Fee: $650 


Course Description 


In this generative six-week course, you’ll have a chance to build and develop a story, essay, or novel excerpt. Each week, we’ll focus on an element of craft—sensory detail, dialogue, point of view, scene, summary, plot, etc. We’ll look at a story or two to see how great writers use these techniques, and we’ll do exercises to practice the techniques ourselves. 


We’ll share work (on a volunteer basis!) just to comment on what is working, and what we want to know more about. You can develop any (or many!) of these exercises into a longer work, up to 8 pages, that you’ll send to me at the end of our six weeks. I’ll give you feedback on that work in our 30-minute individual Zoom conference. 


Join us for a productive and supportive writing community, a place to learn about craft and generate writing through focused exercises. You’ll leave class with a draft of a story, essay, or novel excerpt and essential tools to take into your next project. 


Here is a loose breakdown of our six weeks together: 


Week One: Sensory detail: We’ll start off discussing “O City of Broken Dreams” by John Cheever and “Getting a Life” by Helen Simpson and do exercises exploring sensory detail.


Week Two: Point of view (first person): We’ll discuss voice-driven first-person perspectives, looking at “The Circling Hand” by Jamaica Kincaid and “An Interest in Life” by Grace Paley.


Week Three: Point of view: (third person): We’ll look at distant and close third person perspectives, reading “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway and “The Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri.


Week Four: Plot/Creating questions in a story. We’ll look at ways writers create questions in a story, looking at “Are These Actual Miles?” by Raymond Carver and “The Last Hours of the Bengal Tiger” by Yoko Ogawa.


Week Five: Scene/Summary: We’ll look at how writers create scenes and use summary in their work, looking at “Are These Actual Miles?” by Raymond Carver and “The Second Bakery Attack” by Haruki Murakami, "I Stand Here Ironing" by Tillie Olsen and "The Circling Hand" by Jamaica Kincaid. 


Week six: Dialogue and Gesture: We’ll look at ways writers use dialogue/gesture in their work, reading “Just Before the War with the Eskimos” by JD Salinger and “Transactions in a Foreign Currency” by Deborah Eisenberg.




Karen E. Bender is the author of the story collections Refund, which was a Finalist for the National Book Award in 2015, shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Story prize and Longlisted for the Story prize; and The New Order, which was Longlisted for the Story prize. Her novels are A Town of Empty Rooms and Like Normal People, which was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Her fiction has appeared in magazines including The New Yorker, Granta, Ploughshares, Zoetrope, The Yale Review, The Harvard Review, Guernica, and Story, and reprinted in Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, and have won three Pushcart prizes. She has taught at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and also in the M.F.A. programs at Hollins University, Warren Wilson College, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and Chatham University. She has recently joined the Core Faculty at the Alma College M.F.A. in creative writing. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rona Jaffe Foundation. Visit Karen at  


Registration & Fees 


The fee for this course is $650. Payment in full is required to register. 

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

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, please let us know as soon as possible. We can only offer full refunds if you cancel one week 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 registration fees once the class has begun.


Terms & Community Policy


1.    The Iowa Summer Writing Festival is a program for adults. You must be at least 18 years old to enroll in Festival workshops.


2.    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 out and about. If you phone and we miss you, please leave a detailed message!


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