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The Secrets of Story Structure. Debra Jo Immergut, Instructor is a Course

The Secrets of Story Structure. Debra Jo Immergut, Instructor

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Full course description



Spring, 2023



The Secrets of Story Structure (Five-Week Workshop)


Debra Jo Immergut, Instructor





Tuesdays on Zoom, April 25–May 23, 2023


·      6:00–8:00 p.m. Iowa/Central Time

·      7:00–9:00 p.m. Eastern Time

·      4:00–6:00 p.m. Pacific Time

·      5:00–7:00 p.m. Mountain Time



Course Description


How do writers take a promising idea—a precious lump of clay—and coax it into the shapely form of a satisfying narrative? This question will guide our work together in this five-week generative class. For the first hour of each meeting, we’ll break down classic and contemporary fiction, diving into a close study of their parts and how they're put together. We’ll map plots, diagram scenes, and dissect sentences. Through these close readings and illustrated craft discussions, we’ll demystify the techniques our most brilliant writers use to sculpt their raw material into compelling narrative—lessons that will be useful whether you're working on short stories or a novel.


In the second half of each class, we'll work on our own stories, helped along by prompts (or portals, as I prefer to call them) inspired by our readings. The main goal of this course is to make new work and sharpen your storytelling skills by experimenting with plot structure, twists, character revelation, and point of view. We'll share work optionally and informally, and the class will end with a celebratory salon-style reading of in-progress work. In a one-on-one meeting with me, we'll formulate an individualized strategy for your future writing. Alternatively, you can opt for a discussion of a short piece of writing (up to 1000 words). You'll leave the course with new pages written and a road map for a successful finished short story or novel. 





Debra Jo Immergut is the author of You Again (Ecco/HarperCollins), a New York Times Best of 2020 and a finalist for the 2021 Gotham Book Prize. Her 2018 novel The Captives (Ecco/HarperCollins) was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Debut Novel and published in over a dozen countries worldwide. She has also published a collection of short fiction, Private Property (Random House). She is a recipient of Michener and MacDowell fellowships and has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She teaches writing at settings from universities to correctional facilities and leads workshops at her own Fiction Kitchen program. More info at


Registration & Fees


The fee for this course is $550. 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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