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Stories and their Shapes: Fiction Writing with Joan Li (in person Session 1 22) is a Course

Stories and their Shapes: Fiction Writing with Joan Li (in person Session 1 22)


$2,500 Enroll

Full course description

There is a separate application process for this course. If you have not been accepted into the Iowa Young Writers' Studio Summer Residential Program you are not eligible to enroll.


Fiction Writing with Joan Li: Stories and their Shapes

There will be triangles and there might be circles, but I promise this is not a geometry class. Instead, we’ll explore the structural range and possibilities of fiction through the lens of shapes. We’ll interrogate how structure intersects with character, time, conflict, and plot to form narratives beyond the conventions of chronology and three-act dramas. Here, we’ll reject Kurt Vonnegut’s taxonomical thesis of 8-shapes to rule them all. Structure and shape aren’t necessarily reductive and simplifying—they can be liberating and inventive to one’s reading and writing experience. Within fiction that appears straightforward, we might take a closer look and excavate patterns, complexities in the mechanics. We might recognize some “shapely” features—love polygons, fragments, multiple perspectives—but we’ll also read stories that seem to invent entirely unique shapes for themselves. We’ll consider structure as both something that can arise naturally during the drafting stage and something that can be imposed; vessels that hold some stories’ concerns and engines that drive others. Core to this course is a love of play and playfulness towards writing. How can shapes and the constraints of structure more generally be a source of energy, even inspiration, for our stories? In seminars, we’ll draw diagrams from the stories we read. We might also try our hand at writing stories from diagrams. Come prepared to experiment, to shapeshift your ideas and obsessions into new forms. We will apply this interest in structure not only to published pieces of writing, but also each others' drafts in workshop. Honesty, of course, will be a facet of our feedback, but so will generosity and open-mindedness. Leave your protractors and answers at home but come with your interpretive doodles and curiosity. This is a chance for us to come together, collaborate, and grow as fellow writers and creatives.

Joan Li is Chinese-American writer from southeastern Connecticut. Her work has been published in The Rumpus, New England Review, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. Prior to attending the Iowa Writers’ Workshop to work on her fiction, she graduated from Harvard with a degree in English Literature and cosplayed as brand strategist for Big Milk among other breakfast foods. She loves reading novels with tender details and complex relationships, but she also can’t resist saccharine manga. She is taking recommendations for period dramas and K-dramas to watch.




The fee for this course, which includes the fee for the 2-week session of the Summer Residential Program, is $2,500. Payment in full is required to enroll in the course.


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."


Cancellation Policy: If you cancel or withdraw before June 1, 2022 a $100 cancellation fee will be deducted from your refund. Thereafter no refunds are available. 




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