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CW 72 — Crafting Innovative Fiction within Creative Constraints

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Mondays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 5 weeks
Date(s): Jan 22—Feb 26
Time: 5:00—7:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 24
Unit: 1
Tuition: $460
Instructor(s): Bee Sacks
Limit: 30
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
Please Note: No class on February 19
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
5:00—7:50 pm (PT)
Jan 22—Feb 26
5 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 24
1 Unit
Bee Sacks
Please Note: No class on February 19
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
What is more intimidating than the blank page? When we tell ourselves that we can write anything, this sentiment can feel more inhibiting than inviting. The unlikely solution is restriction. Many working novelists—people who must continuously reinvigorate their creative lives—have found that they write with more imagination, enthusiasm, and focus by imposing creative boundaries upon themselves. These might be physical (a chapter unfolding entirely in an elevator), temporal (e.g., a paragraph that must span a full century), or even grammatical (e.g., a short story told entirely in question statements).

While creative restraints are common in poetry, they are often ignored in prose. No longer! This course is designed around the tried-and-true belief that as writers, we do our best work when we’re given intriguing restraints. Over the course of five weeks, we will read widely, taking our inspiration from stories that span millennia—from the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh to the playful restraints of the French collective OuLiPo and the short stories of Donald Barthelme. Writing exercises born from these readings will allow students to play and explore. Students will receive daily prompts and weekly feedback on short pieces. By the end, your writing practice will be invigorated, and you will have all sorts of new tools at your disposal whenever you feel stuck.


Bee Sacks (whose novels are published under the name Rebecca Sacks) is the author of City of a Thousand Gates, which received the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for fiction in 2023, and The Lover, published in August 2023. They are the recipient of grants and awards from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Commonwealth Club of California, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Lauren Groff, Ed. , The Best Short Stories 2023: The O. Henry Prize Winner (ISBN 978-0593470596)