The University of Iowa Online

How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women

A free course from The University of Iowa
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On October 11, 2016, the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa will open a the new fiction writing course How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women. Centered on female authorial voices and female literary characters, this online course will be offered completely free to all participants and will welcome writers of all genders.


How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women will bring together beginning and experienced writers for the study and practice of writing fiction. Class videos, readings, and writing assignments will invite new writers to experiment with the creation of fictional characters, scenes, and stories. Advanced writers will be challenged to examine their convictions and to refine and expand their craft. Centering on character - the characters created by women writers and the female characters created by all writers - this MOOC will lead participants through a progressive study of how authors from around the world approach each aspect of writing fiction.


Professors Christopher Merrill and Margot Livesey will lead you through this course. Margot Livesey is Professor at the Iowa Writers' Workshop; she is the author of seven novels and one short-story collection. Her new novel Mercury is forthcoming this fall. Christopher Merrill is Director of the International Writing Program and University of Iowa Professor of English; he has published six collections of poetry, five works of nonfiction, and many works of translation. His new work After the Fact: Scripts and Postscripts, a conversation in prose poems with Marvin Bell, has just been published.


The contributing authors, who will share their craft principles and advice with you during the class videos, hail from Indonesia, Israel, Mauritius, New Zealand, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, and the United States. Each offers a unique perspective on the writing process. We are honored to present their voices here.


The teaching team, who will work directly with you online regarding the class videos, readings, and writing assignments, are alumni of the Iowa Writers' Workshop with substantial publication records and exceptional teaching expertise. They will log into the course website at different times of day and night so that you will be able to interact with them from any time zone in the world.


Tuesday, October 11 at 12 pm CDT: Course will open for Orientation. Join us for a welcome video from Margot Livesey and Christopher Merrill. Meet your teaching team and fellow writers, get to know the course website, and try some introductory writing activities.

Thursday, October 13 at 12 pm CDT: Class 1 will open. We will post one class every Thursday: a prerecorded class video from your contributing authors, a reading assignment, and a writing assignment. You will be able to look at the class when it opens, or you can look at it later. Once a class has been posted, all the classwork will be available for you to complete until the course closes, so you can work at your own pace. The rest of the classes will open as follows:

  • Thursday, October 20 at 12 pm CDT: Class 2 will open.
  • Thursday, October 27 at 12 pm CDT: Class 3 will open.
  • Thursday, November 3 at 12 pm CDT: Class 4 will open.
  • Thursday, November 10 at 12 pm CDT: Class 5 will open.
  • Thursday, November 17 at 12 pm CDT: Farewell video will open.

Our teaching team will discuss the class videos, reading assignments, and writing assignments with you. You will post your completed writing assignments for your classmates to read, receive community feedback from them, and give community feedback on their work.

Monday, November 21 at 11:59 pm CDT: Course will close.

You can begin each class as soon as it is posted, or you can work at your own pace. The course will close on November 21.


We offer this course to promote a global creative writing community and to support each of you in the development of your voice and your craft. The amount of time you give to the course is entirely up to you! If you wish to complete all the coursework, we expect that you will need to spend 5-10 hours a week, but that is an estimate: some people work more quickly than others. You should not feel pressured: come when you can and enjoy working with your teaching team and your classmates. We look forward to seeing you soon!


You will need a computer or mobile device with a stable internet connection that will support your participation. If you would like to take this course but do not have reliable internet access, please contact us at We will try to facilitate a local MOOC access group where you live.


Again, this course is freely available to everyone in the world; there is no cost to register. The University of Iowa will offer an optional MOOC Certificate of Completion for a fee of $50.00 USD. You are not required to pay this fee in order to register for and participate in this MOOC. Those who wish to earn the MOOC Certificate of Completion must complete a set percentage of the MOOC coursework. You can learn about the details of the completion requirements and the certificate when the course begins on October 11.

We look forward to working and writing with you soon!