Core Courses

Students listening and taking notes during the Summer Residential Program

If you’re accepted to the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio's summer residential program, you will choose a single Core Course of study—Poetry, Fiction, or Creative Writing (a survey that includes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction)—as your focus for the two weeks of the program. 


The poetry course will explore voice, image, metaphor, line, language, and other aspects of this most condensed form. If you love writing poetry and want to focus on it exclusively and intensely, with a disciple's devotion, in a small tribe of fellow poets, this is the course for you.


If the short story or novel is your thing, then consider the Fiction course. By focusing on challenges particular to fiction, such as establishing and deepening characters, writing dialogue, using stream of consciousness and interior monologue, working with 1st and 3rd and multiple points of view, managing plot and the passage of time, and creating a vivid setting, this course will help you gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies of the genre.

Creative Writing

Because of the scope of the class, which spans the three major genres of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction, the Creative Writing course concentrates on those elements of writing that are universal: language, image, voice/point of view, structure/story, setting, character. The Creative Writing course is a great choice for you if your work already bridges multiple genres or if you want the freedom to explore new forms.

Course Structure

No matter what course you choose for your two weeks at the Studio, your classes will be small, 10 or fewer students. Each course is divided into a seminar component and a workshop component. The same instructor teaches both.

The seminar

To write, you must read. This is a bit like saying, To sing, you must listen, or To cook, you must eat. The emphasis of the seminar is for students to read as writers. Published work will be scrutinized for what can be gleaned about craft: how a writer achieved a particular effect or result, how a writer astonished or moved you. Students will explore and internalize aspects of craft by engaging in generative writing activities related to the readings.

The workshop

A workshop is a dialogue, a collaboration in which a writer and readers, including a teacher, work as a team to guide the writer’s draft toward the fullest expression of itself. With constructive insight from a teacher and peers, a writer gets a better sense of how the work is perceived. The text for this class is the writing of your classmates, although readings and ideas from your seminar will come into play. Our instructors ensure that workshops present a supportive environment in which each student is encouraged to give thoughtful, thorough commentary to their peers in exchange for the same.