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The Novella Workshop. Sharon Oard Warner, Instructor is a Course

The Novella Workshop. Sharon Oard Warner, Instructor

Jan 15, 2024 - Feb 19, 2024

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$750 Enroll

Full course description



Fall 2023–Winter 2024 


The Novella Workshop (Six-Week Workshop) 


Sharon Oard Warner, Instructor 




Mondays on Zoom, January 15, 2024 – February 19, 2024 


  • 10:00 am–1:00 pm Iowa/Central Time 

  • 11:00–2:00 pm Eastern Time 

  • 8:00–11:00 am Pacific Time 

  • 9:00 am–12:00 pm Mountain Time 


Fee: $750 



Course Description 


Why write a novella? And why write one before embarking on a novel? Because the novella is the intermediate step: more expansive than a short story, but trimmer than a novel.


This workshop focuses on the novella as 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. 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, to quote Debra Sparks, a “Goldilocks form, not too much this and not too much that but just right.” For the convenience of publishers, novellas are often marketed as novels. Novellas 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.


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. Expect to workshop one scene per week or four scenes in total. Why work with scenes? 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.


Expect to spend several hours a week reading and writing in preparation for our Monday morning sessions. If you are 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. 


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. 


Browse any of the dozens of novella listicles online to see what I mean: 


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. 



In our six weeks together, participants will: 

  • Explore the novella form and its history. 
  • Identify a touchstone novella. 
  • Create a story map. 
  • Draft four key scenes or plot points.  

Each participant will meet with me for a 30-minute conference—either early in the course or shortly before it ends. 




Sharon Oard Warner is Professor Emerita of English/Creative Writing at the University of New Mexico. She 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 2021. Warner’s essays and articles have appeared in The AWP Chronicle, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Studies in Short Fiction, Studies in the Novel,and elsewhere. Many of those articles went on to be republished in The Year’s Best Writing on Writing, The Writer’s Handbook, Writer’s Digest Yearbook, The Writer’s Guide to Fiction: How to Write, Polish, and Publish Short Stories and Novels,Short Story Criticism, and elsewhere. A guest blogger for, she is currently working on a historical novella set in Taos, New Mexico.  


Registration & Fees 


The fee for this course is $750. 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 small staff is out and about. If you phone and we miss you, please leave a detailed message!