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The Surreality and Strangeness of Coming-of-Age Narratives: Fiction Writing with Samantha Xiao Cody (in person Session 2 22) is a Course

The Surreality and Strangeness of Coming-of-Age Narratives: Fiction Writing with Samantha Xiao Cody (in person Session 2 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 Samantha Xiao Cody. The Surreality and Strangeness of Coming-of-Age Narratives

Three Korean adoptees are possessed by a demon they call “Mom.” A boy convinced he’s turned into a robot visits the strange world of the suburbs. Two friends commit a murder at summer camp. A young girl is certain she’s from another planet. Girls raised by wolves go to boarding school to become more human. What is the alchemy that makes adolescence a time of singular intensity – a time of passion, horror, fantasy, transformation – a time that feels, in many ways, unreal or surreal? In this course, we will look at what makes these coming-of-age stories burn white hot. We will discuss how narratives about adolescence push the boundaries of genre because of the very nature of adolescence and its strangeness. We will explore explicitly surreal stories about growing up, but also “realist” stories that have, at their core, something terrifying, something both brutally real and seemingly unbelievable. We will explore what it is about this essential experience, of leaving behind our childhoods, that haunts us for the rest of our lives. We’ll talk about how all of this is accomplished down to the very level of the sentence and the craft of fiction: how is the POV making the story feel more honest, or more unsettling? How does time move and warp for the child narrator? How does the world, seen through the eyes of the narrator, transform? We’ll be discussing the stories of so many brilliant writers of the true and strange: Alice Sola Kim, Ottessa Moshfegh, Karen Russell, Jenny Zhang, Alice Munro, Stacey Richter, Jamel Brinkley, Italo Calvino, and others. In workshop, you’ll submit your own magnificent stories, and we’ll come together as a community to discuss your work with care and curiosity, pushing each other to think about what it means to be writers. This will be a space where we find the joy in writing. This will be a space where we laugh and try something different and play around with new possibilities for our stories and ourselves. We’ll do writing exercises and games to allow for this sense of play, and approach critique and revision as a space for experimentation, rather than a space for “repair.” We will have so much fun. I can’t wait.

Samantha Xiao Cody is a former mediocre Physics major with too many hobbies. She currently enjoys knitting and bouldering, but it could be something new in a few months. You can find her in Best Small Fictions 2021, The New England Review, the Missouri Review, and elsewhere.




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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