Just Because It Happened to You: Reading and Writing the Short Story

Winter 2019 and Spring 2019 quarters

Taught by

writing, research, and information systems

We will attend to Annie Dillard’s advice that, if you like sentences, then you can become a writer because you have a place to start, not to mention a passion for what makes writing lively and pleasurable. We will focus on storytelling and descriptive practices that move prose toward shape and meaning: the right- and left- branching sentences, for instance, that demonstrate the difference between thinking about experience and crafting it.

Our work will fuse creative writing and rhetoric as students master a common language for addressing issues of clarity, concision, and coherence in writing. They will approach writing and editing guided by the idea of audience and by the view that voice in writing is an effect of craft. We will begin with a review of sentence grammar by immersing ourselves in the fictions of Lydia Davis and by studying Style by Joseph Williams and Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style by Virginia Tufte.

During the first quarter students will identify a short story writer with whom they will complete a writerly apprenticeship. They will study how the author works by imitating syntax and by reading secondary sources. The second quarter will be all about the struggle of renouncing the belief that just because it happened to you means it’s interesting. In other words, students will make the leap from lived to crafted experience. Students will compile an anthology of their best work, which they will present at a public event at the end of the year.

Our work will be collaborative, blending lecture, student presentations, workshops, and seminar periods. Students will present their work regularly, in small, critique-able passages; and they will be engaged by the difficult work of responding to their peers with concrete suggestions. Students from all disciplines are welcome.

Program Details

Fields of Study

aesthetics writing

Preparatory For

writing, law, and teaching.


Winter Open Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Online Learning

No Required Online Learning